By David Skolnick
Two Ohio House members and the Youngstown City Council president, all Democrats, said JobsOhio, the privatized agency created by the Republican governor to head the state’s economic development, killed jobs in the Mahoning Valley.
In response to an article in Sunday’s Vindicator about JobsOhio recommending a $4.5 million tax credit to Verizon Wireless, which is closing its Boardman facility and eliminating 370 jobs in the Valley, the politicians criticized and questioned the agency’s effectiveness at job creation.
The request was approved by the Ohio Tax Credit Authority, which has yet to reject a JobsOhio tax-credit recommendation.
JobsOhio and Kasich are “poaching jobs from the Mahoning Valley,” said state Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry, D-59th, of Austintown, at a press conference Monday with state Rep. Robert F. Hagan, D-58th, of Youngstown, and Youngstown Council President Jamael Tito Brown at county Democratic headquarters in Boardman.
“Don’t you think [Jobs-Ohio] has an obligation to the people of the Mahoning Valley?” Gerberry said.
Kasich “is doing everything he can to hurt the Mahoning Valley,” said Hagan, who later added, “The governor is going to thumb his nose at the Mahoning Valley again and again.”
Kasich and JobsOhio officials have said the tax credit was given to Verizon to keep the company in Ohio.
“What credibility [does Hagan and Gerberry] have to even say the word ‘jobs?’” said Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesman, on Monday. “When their party was in charge, Ohio lost 400,000 jobs and the Valley’s unemployment rate was 11.3 percent. Since Gov. Kasich has taken office, unemployment has dropped to 7.7 percent, and more than 13,000 jobs have been created in the Valley.”
Nichols added: “Instead of attacking us, they should be apologizing to their constituents for being such colossal failures on the economy when Ohio families needed them most.”
The tax credit keeps Verizon — a wireless voice and data service business — in Ohio, but will result in the company’s closing its 381-employee Boardman facility by early next year. Already, 65 jobs have been eliminated there.
Verizon’s Dublin facility, which employs 1,867 workers, will close in the first half of next year, and those employees will move to a nearby building owned by the company — Boardman and Dublin are leased properties — in Hilliard, which currently employs 601.
None of the Dublin employees will lose his or her job in the consolidation.
Some of the 65 Verizon continuity marketing positions that were eliminated in Boardman on Aug. 31 have moved to Dublin and will then go to Hillard.
Eleven workers at a retail store at the Boardman-Canfield Road location are being moved today to a nearby Verizon store on Boardman-Poland Road.
Of the remaining workers, 285 of them are part of the company’s customer financial service division. Those jobs will be gone around March 2014. Those workers don’t have the option to keep their jobs and relocate to Hilliard.
They can bid for jobs that will become available in Hillard. But those 285 customer financial service jobs are being transferred to Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Hagan pointed out that those three are right-to-work states.
The remaining 20 workers at the Boardman location handle various jobs and will be there until early 2014. A Verizon spokeswoman has said it isn’t known what will happen to those employees.
“The state is giving Verizon $4.5 million to go to [Hilliard] and leave Boardman,” Gerberry said. “Why would a state agency poach jobs?”
Brown said he understands that Verizon is consolidating in the state, but “the only consolidation is in Boardman.”
He later said that “JobsOhio is killing jobs, especially in the Mahoning Valley.”
Nichols previously said that Kasich and JobsOhio are saving jobs in Ohio.
“When a company looks to move out of the state, we’ll do whatever we can to keep them in Ohio,” he said.
JobsOhio has been a controversial agency, particularly in recent months.
The Ohio Ethics Commission found last month that nine of the 22 JobsOhio officials, including six of its nine board members, required to file secret financial disclosure statements had potential conflicts of interest. The commission hasn’t determined if the conflicts are actual.
One of those board members, Gary R. Heminger, president and chief executive officer of Marathon Petroleum Corp. in Findlay, owns stock in Verizon, according to his largely redacted financial disclosure statement.
“His stock holdings are private, and he is fully aware of his judiciary responsibility as it pertains to ethics,” said Angela Graves, a Marathon spokeswoman, speaking Monday on Heminger’s behalf. “He is not aware of any conflicts of interest in the past and doesn’t have any concerns about future actions.”
As a private entity, Jobs-Ohio isn’t subject to the state’s open-records laws.