LIMA ‚?? Ohio‚??s economy is improving across the state and across industries, JobsOhio President Mark Kvamme said Tuesday during at visit to The Lima News.
Unemployment has decreased in all 88 counties since January 2011 and the state has created more than 111,000 jobs since then, Kvamme said during a visit to Lima that included a private lunch with seven manufacturing leaders from the county.
Ohio‚??s unemployment rate is dropping faster than the nation‚??s, Kvamme said.
‚??We‚??re seeing improvement across all our key industry groups and continued capital investment,‚?Ě Kvamme said. ‚??A big chunk of it is happening on the east because of the Utica shale. We‚??re also top four in the nation in job creation. Things are going in the right direction.‚?Ě
Kasich is focused on workforce development, Kvamme said, because the average age of Ohio‚??s worker is 51 and the state has lost a generation of workers as young people moved to other states. Young people are getting top-notch educations in Ohio and then leaving, Kvamme said. Also, the state needs to improve vocational and job training for existing workers, he said.
Kvamme said he has concentrated on selling Ohio as a whole; in the past the state‚??s regions and cities attempted to take on other states by themselves or competed with one another.
‚??Ohio is within a day‚??s truck drive to 60 percent of the country‚??s population. That‚??s crazy powerful,‚?Ě Kvamme said. ‚??And we have the natural resources and the workforce.‚?Ě
Gov. John Kasich created JobsOhio, a private, nonprofit corporation to take over Ohio‚??s job-creation efforts from the Ohio Department of Development. Kasich and Kvamme have said Ohio needs the private group to respond more quickly to business needs than a state office can.
JobsOhio‚??s efforts have been stalled from lawsuits challenging whether the organization is constitutional, and whether public money flowing to a private organization is constitutional. Kasich wants profits from the state‚??s liquor sales to fund JobsOhio and finance loans it would make to businesses.
This past year has been devoted to whether the groups suing over JobsOhio have standing with the court. The Kasich administration took the matter into its own hands last week to get the questions settled. Kvamme, state budget director Tim Keen and Commerce Department Director David Goodman crafted a plan that will require the Ohio Supreme Court to give a ruling on constitutional questions raised by Goodman.
JobsOhio divides the state into six regions; Allen County is in the region headquartered in Toledo, run by the Regional Growth Partnership. Local economic development leaders have complained that local interests are lost in the system and Lima and Allen County‚??s needs are not tended in Toledo.
The six regions were created because everything running through Columbus wasn‚??t working, Kvamme said.
‚??I think it‚??s the right approach. Is everything working perfectly? No. We‚??re only 1 year old. With the six regional partners, it‚??s significantly better than it used to be. I‚??d encourage the local folks to work with RGP, air the issues and if they‚??re not solved, talk to us and we‚??ll work on them.‚?Ě
Task Force L.I.M.A., which supports the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center and the Abrams tank program, has asked Kasich and Kvamme to consider making defense contracting one of the state‚??s key industries. Ohio is losing the work to other states better organized to lobby for the work, task force co-chair Mayor David Berger has said.
Kvamme said defense work can be included with other industries, such as aerospace and aviation and advanced manufacturing.
‚??My concern about focusing too much on that, is that it‚??s a market that can change very quickly, with a stroke of a pen,‚?Ě Kvamme said.