DELPHOS —From the perspective of people who live on the border, Indiana continues to best Ohio at the economic development game.
Officials from Allen and Van Wert counties gathered Wednesday for a Delphos Area Chamber of Commerce legislative luncheon, sponsored by CenturyLink.
The audience at the Microtel heard from county commissioners and the counties’ two new economic development directors, Allen Economic Development Group President Jeff Sprague and Van Wert County Economic Development Office Director Cynthia Leis.
After the presentations, an audience member asked about Ohio better competing with Indiana’s “50 percent tax abatements, free land and being a right to work state.”
Those kinds of decisions are made at the state level, officials said, and they are hopeful Ohio is heading in the right direction.
Van Wert County Commissioner Thad A. Lichtensteiger said Ohio Gov. John Kasich, in his first two years in office, has solved state budgetary problems at the expense of local government, but that Kasich is now firmly focused on improving the state’s economy.
“He told us when he spoke to (the county commissioner association) that we wouldn’t like him his first two years in office,” Lichtensteiger said. “He was probably right. But he said by the fourth year, we’d get to like him. I think he wants to run for president, and he needs to make Ohio the country’s next economic development success story. If he can make progress on workers’ comp, tort reform, right to work, suddenly Indiana’s not kicking our tail feathers.”
Van Wert lost out on a new Honda assembly plant to an Indiana community. The area has lost other large projects to Indiana, which gives cash incentives in the millions, large tax breaks and other goodies to companies locating there.
Delphos exists geographically in both counties: The city is split to the east and west by the Miami and Erie Canal.
Sprague said he and Allen County commissioners are focused on business retention calls. With two of the three commissioners being new, the commissioners are introducing themselves by helping Sprague with those visits to companies, including several Wednesday before and after the lunch.
Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan said supporting existing business is a priority for the county. Eighty percent of new jobs come from existing businesses expansions, Noonan said.
Sprague said when those existing businesses are supported, attracting new business is that much easier. He said every resident of a community can affect economic development.
“Everyone plays a role. When someone checks into this facility and asks what it’s like to live here, their response impacts those decisions,” Sprague said.