Elyria Chronicle-Telegram: ‘Workforce Hub’ designation for Columbus should help all of Ohio

There’s something to be said for having Ohio’s capital city being in the geographic middle of the state, particularly when it comes to economic development.

What happens in Columbus can radiate out to the remainder of the state, something we were reminded of Tuesday when the Biden administration announced that Columbus had been named one of five new “Workforce Hubs.”

The idea is for the federal government to partner with community leaders, including state and local officials, “to drive effective place-based workforce development efforts that are essential to building an economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”

That means apprenticeship and other training programs that would help workers gain the skills needed in burgeoning local industries.

Columbus received the designation because it “has emerged as a center of investment across a variety of industries — including in semiconductor manufacturing, clean energy, and transportation,” a White House news release said.

Semiconductor manufacturing is probably the best known of these, thanks to Intel’s $20 billion investment in a chip manufacturing facility outside of Columbus.

It’s a boon not only for the Columbus area, but the rest of the state.

For example, workers will develop skills at institutions around the state, including Lorain County Community College, that will help them land jobs at Intel and the suppliers and other supporting industries which are expected to sprout up across Ohio in support of Intel.

In September, LCCC was named to lead a consortium of 10 colleges and universities, dubbed the Ohio Semiconductor Collaboration Network, to develop a curriculum focused on those working in the semiconductor industry.

The White House news release singled out the network in explaining why Columbus was one of the five cities chosen. The others are Augusta, Ga., Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Phoenix.

The White House said that the hubs, along with other economic development programs announced Tuesday, would build off previously announced projects and laws passed in recent years, including the bipartisan infrastructure law, the CHIPS Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.

The Plain Dealer reported that the “Workforce Hub” designation won’t require new federal funding, although help would be available for communities to find and apply for existing grant dollars.

All five of the hub locations make sense as places where the federal government should be committing resources to expand American manufacturing.

Take Pittsburgh, which the White House described as showing “strong growth in advanced manufacturing, including robotics and biomanufacturing, as well as clean energy, including batteries.”

Given Pittsburgh’s proximity to the Buckeye State, its designation as a hub, too, could help improve the economic fortunes of northern Ohio.

What’s more, the White House said that the hubs would serve as models for additional hubs planned for elsewhere in country. Where those hubs might be wasn’t said.

It also remains to be seen if the hubs will prove effective.

Some of the coverage of the announcement pointed out that the newly named hubs were in “key 2024 battleground states,” as The Hill put it.

Given Republicans’ electoral success in Ohio in recent years, it might be a stretch to call Ohio a “battleground.” Maryland is considered a blue-leaning state these days, although Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania are indeed crucial swing states.

Whether the locations were chosen because of their potential electoral impact or not, finding innovative ways to spur job training, education and economic growth is not just good politics. It’s good governance.