Ohio’s Controlling Board approved contracts Monday that clear the way for JobsOhio to step up as Ohio’s business recruiting engine, though the exact framework continues to evolve.
Debate swirls around how to balance letting Ohio’s economic development experts be strong competitors for potential job providers and protecting the interests of Ohio taxpayers through adequate transparency. JobsOhio proponents have pointed out that those most interested in securing access to sensitive negotiation data are economic development teams in competing states.
Questions from the Controlling Board focused mostly on how they and Ohioans will know whether JobsOhio is working and what safeguards are in place should the deals go south.
“I don’t understand yet where the firewall is on what we’re going to have for data, and what we're not,” said State Rep. Ron Amstutz, chair of the powerful House Finance Committee. “I have more questions about the parameters they’re setting it up with, in terms of getting short-term gains and not looking at the long term.”
Development Director Christiane Schmenk told lawmakers that JobsOhio and the Department of Development will work to set metrics to evaluate JobsOhio's performance, such as net new jobs and payroll created. JobsOhio will report to legislators on its activities once a year.
“We know that transparency is going to be very, very important to the success of this new model,” Schmenk said.
Work on the new entity and its new coordination with six regional partners, including Columbus 2020, has been going on for months. Further details, including a strategic planning process, are still underway.
In addition to contracts for JobsOhio, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Development, the Controlling Board also approved $2.8 million for transition expenses and for JobsOhio to help administer department loans. While JobsOhio will have its own $100 million to spend, the entity will still need state approval before issuing tax credits, or what are known as 166 loans, which help businesses with land, building and equipment purchases.