By GRACE WYLER
Gov. Ted Strickland spent some time here Monday praising local business owners for creating jobs and investing in the community.
Strickland joined other government officials and members of the local business community for a tour of Niles Expanded Metals and praised owners Bill Phillips Sr. and Bill Phillips Jr. for their commitment to the local economy.
“We are, I believe, in a state of recovery,” Strickland said. “Companies like this one need to be recognized and celebrated.”
The state’s economy has reached its lowest point, Strickland said, and now must focus on creating jobs to begin its economic recovery.
“I think there is hope on the way,” the governor said. “There has been a reversal in terms of job loss, and now there has to be a focus on job gain.”
Small businesses, such as Niles Expanded Metals, will play an important role in job creation, Strickland said.
“The small-business community is the backbone of our state’s economy,” he said. “It will be a big part of how we create jobs going forward.”
Strickland highlighted tax reforms — such as the elimination of the inventory tax and the corporate franchise tax — and small-business loan programs that have encouraged investment and made credit more available for small businesses to grow.
“One of the inhibitors to economic growth is the inability of small businesses to get access to capital,” Strickland said. “In recent months, I am hearing a more positive message from business owners — investments are being made in Ohio.”
Niles Expanded Metals has been planning an expansion for several years but had to hold off because of the poor economic climate, said Phillips Jr. But the company now has plans to move forward with its growth, he said.
“Now we have gotten, hopefully, over the hump,” Phillips Jr., said. “We are looking at a relatively large expansion.”
Phillips Jr. would not give any details on the expansion but said the company, which employs 52, plans to add “high-tech, higher-paying” jobs.