We can appreciate the anxiety of Trumbull County officials over the announcement that the Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation is shutting down its Warren operation and relocating the employees to Youngstown. Losing jobs is never easy, as just about every community in the Mahoning Valley well knows, and the reaction of the political and business leaders in Trumbull is understandable.
But we would urge them not to take so strident a position that the future of the BWC in the region is jeopardized in any way. James Conrad, administrator/chief executive officer of the BWC, is deserving of praise for keeping the 135 state jobs in the Valley. Conrad, who has launched a statewide consolidation program, could just as easily have moved the jobs to some other community, such as Canton. Indeed, Canton is picking up the 88 employees now working in downtown Akron.
Likewise, the bureau is closing its Richmond Heights office on the far east side of Cleveland and is significantly reducing its downtown Cleveland operation. In Cincinnati, the downtown office will be left with a skeleton staff, while a larger office is being established on the outerbelt where major highways merge.
Therefore, we should count our blessings that Conrad decided to maintain a presence in the Mahoning Valley.
As we have suggested many times in this space, the region must be seen by residents as one large metropolitan area, or else job-creation efforts will fall victim to provincial battles. For instance, we remain unwavering in our support of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which is located in Vienna Township, Trumbull County, and have urged Mahoning County commissioners to provide as much money as they can for the operation of the facility.
The oneness of the region was never more evident than when the campaign was being waged to persuade General Motors Corp. to build the new generation of its compact cars at its Lordstown (Trumbull County) plant. Political, business and community leaders in Mahoning and Columbiana counties stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Trumbull leaders in not only urging GM executives to select Lordstown, but in making sure that state government offered the company an economic incentive package that was unmatched.
To be sure, Youngstown will benefit from having the 70 or so BWC jobs from Warren, but the relocation does not mean that the employees will necessarily become Mahoning County residents.
Conrad has made it clear that consolidation of BWC's operations is etched in stone and that the decision to close offices and relocate employees is not open to negotiations. He has notified the Trumbull County employees of his plans and wants the move to Youngstown to be accomplished in 10 to 14 months.
We have no doubt that city officials will do whatever they can to make the transaction as seamless as possible.
Having state jobs in the Valley is better than having no state jobs at all, because the benefits derived from such a presence are enjoyed by more than just the community in which the jobs are located.