By Marc Kovac
A lawmaker panel has released nearly $15 million in funding to a half-dozen regional business groups as part of the spinoff of the state’s economic- development incentive programs to the new JobsOhio private nonprofit.
Team NEO, a joint effort involving Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Lorain and Youngstown, received the highest distribution, about $4.1 million.
The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber received about $2.6 million for its work in southwest Ohio. Columbus 2020 received about $2.3 million for its efforts in central Ohio.
Toledo’s Regional Growth Partnership received $2.1 million for its work in northwest Ohio. The Dayton Development Coalition Inc. received $2 million for work in west-central Ohio, and the Ohio Appalachian Business Council, based in Nelsonville, received nearly $1.7 million for projects in southeast Ohio.
The funding comes from the Ohio Third Frontier Commission, which signed off on the awards last month, and the development groups are required to provide dollar-for-dollar matches.
JobsOhio was created by lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich earlier this year and is poised to take control of economic-development programs currently housed in the Ohio Department of Development.
Supporters believe the new nonprofit will be in a better position to respond quickly and confidentially to businesses thinking about expanding or relocating.
The groups that received funding approval from the Controlling Board on Monday will serve as regional offices for JobsOhio and will be responsible for developing economic-development strategies for their parts of the state.
The setup prompted criticism from a liberal advocacy group. ProgressOhio, which has filed suit to stop JobsOhio from taking control of the state’s economic- development programs, claimed last month that Kasich’s administration was funneling public funds to chambers of commerce that support Senate Bill 5, the controversial collective-bargaining law to be decided by voters next month.
Administration officials said those allegations are “silly” and untrue.