JobsOhio Must Become More Transparent About What It’s Doing Or Isn’t Doing To Attract And Keep Jobs: Editorial

Eight years ago, the Ohio General Assembly, at then-Gov. John Kasich’s request, set up JobsOhio as a privately run economic development outfit underwritten by public money, replacing many of the functions of Ohio’s Department of Development, established in the 1950s. Kasich said the new agency would be more nimble.

“People will look back on … the creation of JobsOhio and see it as the vehicle for the transformation for our economy,” Kasich said then.

Given the relative trickle of information on how JobsOhio is doing, it’s hard to know what there is to look back on.

Ohioans, however, deserve a clear answer.

JobsOhio is a privately managed nonprofit corporation, but its underlying money is public: the profits of Ohio’s liquor monopoly.

Among many failings, the agency doesn’t release full terms of the grants and other incentive deals it hands out. Nor does it share details on whether and how it claws back money from companies that failed to live up to jobs, investment and payroll pledges.

That makes it impossible to judge how effective JobsOhio has been or how well it’s safeguarding the money it expends.

Then there are the eye-popping salaries -- topping off at $621,323 last year for outgoing President and Chief Investment Officer John F. Minor Jr. The average JobsOhio salary was six figures, cleveland.com’s Andrew J. Tobias reports.

After critical reporting by The Columbus Dispatch on JobsOhio’s failure to report full compensation, as required by law, the agency is finally releasing salary numbers that include benefits and other compensation, and has amended its 2017 filing.

Last week, Gov. Mike DeWine rightly called on the agency to be more timely and transparent in how it reports salary figures. Yet we still don’t know how much JobsOhio will pay DeWine’s pick to lead the agency -- Dayton economic development official J.P. Nauseef -- when he takes over after Minor leaves.

Far more transparency is needed if JobsOhio is to be able to show its effectiveness with meaningful disclosures.

The agency’s recently released 2018 report boasted of record “payroll and capital investment” results. It said JobsOhio “achieved 266 project wins with companies that committed to create 27,071 new jobs with $1.3 billion of new payroll, retain 69,905 existing jobs and invest $9.6 billion of new capital.”

That represented a 19 percent improvement in job creation and a 23 percent boost in payroll “metrics” over 2017 results.

The report also noted that Ohio was ranked No. 1 by Ernst & Young in its 2018 U.S. Investment Monitor “for job creation in business investment projects for the second year in a row, beating out Texas (#2) and Georgia (#3). Ohio also ranked first for total project wins and fourth for capital investment.”

But while welcome, these results leave out critical measures needed to assess JobsOhio’s overall success.

Apart from aggregated annual metrics, JobsOhio’s public reports don’t net out losses from earlier incentive deals gone bad, including prior job, investment and payroll pledges that weren’t met. Nor do they provide enough detail to be able to calculate a cost-benefit analysis on what JobsOhio spent to achieve these results, or on how “nimble” and effective the agency has been in interceding with firms contemplating layoffs or plant closures, such as General Motors Corp.'s Lordstown factory. The annual report includes no data on clawbacks.

Republican legislators at the Statehouse specifically shielded JobsOhio from such scrutiny at Kasich’s behest.

Now Kasich is gone, but DeWine last week said he thinks the agency can achieve more meaningful transparency without a legislative fix.

We are skeptical. JobsOhio didn’t even live up to its legal requirement on payroll disclosures until called out on the omissions by The Dispatch. If DeWine can’t persuade the agency voluntarily to release meaningful performance data, lawmakers must step in to require it. Ohio taxpayers deserve no less.

The Ohio Senate last June amended a pending House bill to require JobsOhio to undergo periodic performance audits, but the requirement died in December, because the House didn’t act on the Senate-amended bill before the legislative session ended on Dec. 31.

JobsOhio is an investment by Ohioans in economic opportunities for them and their communities. Before an Ohioan invests a couple thousand dollars in a mutual fund, its promoters must provide him or her with copious details on that fund’s performance and costs.

That’s the kind of information that Ohioans, who are investing millions of dollars in JobsOhio, should also receive. Today, they don’t.

About our editorials: Editorials express the view of the >editorial board of >cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer -- the senior leadership and editorial-writing staff. As is traditional, editorials are unsigned and intended to be seen as the voice of the news organization.

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Source : https://www.cleveland.com/opinion/2019/03/jobsohio-must-become-more-transparent-about-what-its-doing-or-isnt-doing-to-attract-and-keep-jobs-editorial.html

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