JobsOhio fails GM Lordstown

When NCR Corp, finally announced what so many had long feared – that it would move 1,250 good-paying jobs from Dayton to Atlanta – then-candidate for governor John Kasich blamed Gov. Ted Strickland for NCR’s departure.

It didn’t matter that many Dayton-area business leaders said Gov. Strickland wasn’t to blame because the new CEO never planned to stay in Dayton.

What mattered, Kasich said, is that Strickland was the boss when Dayton lost its last Fortune 500 company and the $2.5 million in city income tax revenue it provided each year.

Candidate Kasich promised change in the form of a new job-creation agency he called JobsOhio. He called it “ground-breaking’’ and “visionary’’ and promised it would restore Ohio to the old days when companies thrived and their workers enjoyed a higher standard of living.

Voters gave Kasich a chance.

GM Lordstown

As the Mahoning Valley knows all too well, yet another manufacturing giant – GM’s assembly plant in Lordstown – announced plans to close and end production of the Chevrolet Cruze. More than 1,400 good-paying jobs could be lost.

Although GM’s troubles developed on Kasich’s watch, the former governor who aspires to be president insists he isn’t to blame. There wasn’t much JobsOhio could do to save Lordstown, Kasich said, because a market that now favors trucks and SUVs made the compact Cruze no longer viable.

If JobsOhio is as effective as Kasich claims, why did its highly paid leaders not anticipate GM’s problems, and why haven’t we seen a short list of businesses interested in moving into the Lordstown plant or meaningful suggestions for how to help the existing plant operating?

The secrecy engulfing Jobs- Ohio makes it impossible to do a comprehensive analysis of its performance. Still, government records, news reports, business filings and limited audits show it has exaggerated its impact, funneled state resources to companies that failed to create or retain the promised jobs, has a pattern of helping firms with ties to its politically potent governing board and resisted even the most basic oversight

One thing is clear: JobsOhio has failed to live up to its hype. For nearly all of Kasich’s eight years as governor, Ohio’s economic growth has trailed the nation’s. Wages have not kept pace with inflation. Poverty, infant mortality, opioid overdose deaths, student loan debt and other important quality-of-life indicators are stubbornly high.

All these trends have emerged as JobsOhio gave tax breaks and other incentive packages to companies aligned with Jobs-Ohio board members and gave its workers frequent, hefty pay raises.

As Ohio grapples with economic challenges, it’s important that we stop wasting money on ineffective giveaways and instead use our resources to attract and retain good-paying jobs and use our considerable expertise to help companies like GM survive changing market forces.

Kasich is correct when he says Lordstown suffers from changes in customer demands.

Inflexible assembly line

To maximize profits when the plant began making the Cruze, GM settled on an inflexible assembly line that restricts its production to compact cars. Contrast that with Honda’s Ohio-based plants where flexible assembly lines allow it to assemble different sized vehicles. If market forces demand more Ridgelines and less Civics, Honda can give buyers what they want.

Ohio has lots to offer employers, and so does the GM plant.

In the name of economic development, our state ushered in changes to the tax code and legal environment that favor businesses. The Lordstown facility is big, it’s home to green energy sources and close to highways. And it has a workforce with an unrivaled work ethic.

As Ohio grapples with economic challenges, it must demand that JobsOhio stop wasting money on ineffective giveaways and strategically target its resources to attract and retaining good-paying jobs.

Sandy Theis is a native of Warren and a past Statehouse Bureau chief for The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. She is president of Theis Research & Consulting, LLC.

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