There was an interesting moment during Gov. John Kasich’s year-end wrap with reporters late last month that merits a second look.
The governor was asked about Jobs- Ohio, the private nonprofit that is spearheading the state’s economic development efforts despite legal challenges and questions over its funding.
Kasich has been blunt in his assessment of those behind JobsOhio legal entanglements.
“We certainly want them to be successful,” Kasich said early in December after giving a speech to another group, in response to my question about JobsOhio’s future funding. “We want them to have the resources they need. And you know, I have to tell you, I’m very concerned about the proliferation of lawsuits in our state. In the back of my mind, I sometimes wonder if we ought to have a loser-pays legal system. You sue me and you lose, you pay my legal bills. ... If you don’t win an election, you go into court, and that’s not good for the taxpayers, it’s not good for anybody.”
During his year-ender with reporters later in the month, the governor said he isn’t interested in companies that come to him with threats of moving out of state absent copious incentive packages.
Here’s how he put it: “If you want to leave Ohio and you say we’re leaving if you don’t give us help, that program’s off the board. It’s not on our website. We might help somebody if they’re leaving and it’s a special case. ... Believe me, there are CEOs that call me. I say, look, if you want to leave, I hope you have a nice trip. You know what’s funny? They don’t leave. Then they want me to get in a bidding war with somebody in another state.”
It’s an interesting comment, given how often Kasich touted American Greetings and Bob Evans and Diebold and other companies that were poised to leave Ohio but stayed because the administration was proactive in offering economic incentives to get them to stay.
But it fits the administration’s ongoing narrative on Ohio — how the state was barely breathing, left for dead in a ditch, until Kasich came along and brought it back to life.
He has a dropping unemployment rate, a growing balance in what was a nearly empty rainy day fund and weekly announcements of company expansions as proof.
Those trends, along with the administration’s plans to revamp public education, improve roads and bridges and other infrastructure and other initiatives apparently are the new incentives for keeping growing companies in Ohio.
“We’re going to be willing to be competitive, but you know what I tell them?” Kasich said. “We’ve got great higher education, we’ll help train your workers by using tuition effectively, we have stable politics, we have a great location. We’ll give you a little something on the top, but forget about this. We’re not going into some bidding war with North Carolina or Texas. We’re not going to do that. So far it’s working, and we don’t think we’ve really lost anybody.”