William G. Batchelder
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Originally published in Columbus Business First: Viewpoint: As JobsOhio turns 10, economic gains show benefit of privatized approach

Ohio is the birthplace of some of the world’s greatest inventions – the airplane, the lightbulb, the traffic light and even Superman. Today, as we rebound from an unprecedented crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio benefits from that innovative spirit in addition to the decisive actions of the DeWine Administration that helped to mitigate the impact on our state’s businesses and economy. When the dust settles, a large part of the Administration’s success will come from a unique force-multiplier: JobsOhio.

This week, we celebrate a significant milestone in how economic development and job creation was transformed in Ohio. Ten years ago, legislation created what we know today as JobsOhio, our state’s private nonprofit economic development organization. It charged JobsOhio with creating and retaining investment and jobs in Ohio. And it did so by creating a unique business model that would differentiate and empower our state to compete and grow our economy.

At the time, the Great Recession had Ohio and the rest of the country firmly in its grip. Unemployment was in the double digits, Ohio alone had lost 400,000 jobs since 2007, and the state ranked 48th in its prospects for growth and job creation. Ohio’s economy was in pain, our people were hurting, and many corporations were making it harder on our communities by relocating. The financial crisis had severely impacted state budgets and the rainy-day fund for most states was in the red—including Ohio’s with only pennies left in its account.

The creation of JobsOhio was part of a wider conversation at the time about how privatization was needed to stimulate the economy with urgency and as efficiently as possible. Through many sleepless nights and busy days as Ohio and the nation worked to recover from the recession, the foundation of JobsOhio was born on February 18, 2011, when the bill was signed into law. The privatization of economic development in Ohio was more than just forward thinking, it was a way for our state to stay ahead of the economic development curve.

JobsOhio is built to produce and deliver a measurable return for the people of Ohio. JobsOhio’s team comprises of professionals with extensive private sector experience reflecting Ohio’s growing sectors, and combined with its private structure and funding model, allow it to pivot quickly – at the speed of business – to meet demand and when facing unexpected challenges. JobsOhio is designed to be transparent while also able to work with businesses who expect their privacy and proprietary information to be respected. In addition, it has created a regional partner network to align economic development statewide and deliver the heft and impact of a state-level organization but with a granular, local touch desired by business. This is an approach unlike any other in the country, and it lets Ohio outpace other states when working to attract investment and jobs with openness and accountability.

The bill brought forth a new era of smart privatization, for the right reasons, and 10 years later, JobsOhio has had a profound impact on the state’s economy, allocating billions toward economic development initiatives that have led to a robust amount of new jobs and attracted investment from some of the world’s leading and most innovative companies such as Google and Amazon. A decade later, JobsOhio has produced a return on investment for the people of Ohio by bringing commitments of over 800,000 new and retained jobs.

The COVID-19 economy calls back to the era in which JobsOhio was created. And at this critical time working closely with the DeWine administration, JobsOhio has indeed lived up to its promise and beyond, providing leadership and moving quickly to help businesses while protecting and creating jobs.

Make no mistake: Tens of thousands of jobs were at risk, but because JobsOhio’s economic development activity in the state is creatively and uniquely funded through the profits from the sale of spirituous liquor – not taxes – JobsOhio has been able to move swiftly and decisively to make capital available and implement an array of critical programs. Since March 15, 2020 JobsOhio has made available more than $250 million to fund 10 new economic development programs and up to an additional $250 million for procurement of over 50 million units of life-saving PPE.

When it mattered most—JobsOhio’s team rose to the challenge and we now have a generational opportunity to propel the state on a global scale.

Proud would be an understatement – we all share in JobsOhio’s success. We’ve climbed monstrous mountains through the years and it certainly won’t be the last, but looking back over the last 10 years, JobsOhio has maintained a healthy relationship with the legislature while continuing to execute its mission as a private and independent entity. Even in unprecedented times like today, and while losing close to six months of deal flow due to COVID, JobsOhio and its partners still managed to create nearly 20,000 jobs in 2020. Through strong partnerships with the State of Ohio and economic development partners in each region of the state, JobsOhio plans to continue its mission for years to come.

JobsOhio is absolutely critical to Ohio’s economic health as it continues to act on new strategies to get back to work and be there for businesses with clear and open lines of communication. With COVID recovery top of mind for so many, through continued diligence and some old fashioned “Ohio grit”, the future of Ohio is bright.

As JobsOhio and its partners lead the way to continued economic development and growth, we must together continue to celebrate and support Ohio’s one-of-a-kind economic development model to bring opportunity and jobs for the people of Ohio.

William G. Batchelder was the 101st Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives from 2011 to 2014 and was instrumental in the enactment of House Bill 1, creating JobsOhio. He currently serves as JobsOhio’s first Board Member Emeritus.