A couple of years ago, not too long after taking office, Gov. John Kasich told a Columbus audience that he wanted to help make the state “cool.”
Not just, “cool,” but “really cool.” Austin cool or North Carolina cool.
It was sort of funny at the time, because the state was on the back edge of the so-called Great Recession that continued the manufacturing downturn and job and economic losses that rust-belt cities had felt for years.
And being out of work with no money in your pocket is decidedly uncool.
But the governor’s point was that there is a lot of cutting-edge economic activity pulsing through the state — high-tech jobs and such that are all the rage among up-and-coming New Economy proteges. We’re talking information technology, medical breakthroughs, advanced manufacturing and the like.
Kasich has been trumpeting such coolness ever since his initial comments on the matter, though he increased his use of the term this week during a couple of events, including one that had him zooming around a central Ohio test track at 120-plus mph.
That happened at the Transportation Research Center near Honda’s sprawling Marysville-area campus following a press conference that mostly focused on the state-backed resurfacing of a 7.5- mile loop used by car companies and suppliers to test new vehicles and parts. The state pumped some $6 million into the $16 million project, via Third Frontier and Ohio Department of Transportation grants.
“It’s as cool as it gets,” Kasich said of the track facility and the types of testing being completed there on a daily basis. He added, “If you are 18 years old and you are trying to figure out where you want to go to school and you have a great interest in the autonomous car, the self-driving car; if you have an interest in the super car, if you have an interest in automotive safety, if you have an interest in auto mechanics, auto engineering, you want to go over here to Ohio state, you want to get connected to Honda.”
Asked about the whole coolness issue earlier in the week, Kasich told reporters that the type of jobs being created in the state right now are “phenomenal.” Out-of-state college kids are getting degrees in Ohio, then finding good jobs and sticking around the state afterward. Many others who cross the borders in search of cool digs elsewhere find themselves returning.
“People get educated in the state, many of them are Ohioans, and they leave for a while trying to discover gold in Austin or North Carolina or somewhere,” Kasich said. “They usually end up back here. And if the jobs are here, they’re most likely to come back.”
He added, “One of the great challenges, though, that we have as a state is to convince people who live in places like California and in New York that you can move to Ohio, things are really happening in Ohio... Creating jobs, being cool, being cutting edge and selling our state.”
And, “You can live here at half the cost, you don’t have to sit in traffic for two hours, your neighbors are friendly, you’ve got access to all the art that you might like; we have great sports.”
Last week, Kasich showed just how cool Ohio is becoming, speeding by reporters at 130 mph.
“All you young people across the country, you need to run for the track here,” he said. “You need to run to the track, because this is as cool as it gets anywhere in America.”