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Our focus must be about creating jobs

Jobs and the economy are understandably the primary issue on most people’s minds these days.

Government cannot guarantee economic success, but it can help create an atmosphere in which families and businesses have a chance to prosper.

With that in mind, I have strived during my time in the Senate to make sure that each county in the 17th Senate District and throughout rural Ohio has the resources to develop sites that can be marketed for job creation.

In southern Ohio much of this effort has been geared toward growing manufacturing jobs. While the industry has taken a hit over the past few years, manufacturing is still one of the top sectors of Ohio’s economy, and as new technologies are developed, we have an opportunity to harness our manufacturing strength and tradition to attract new development.

In 2005, the General Assembly took an important step to improve the business climate in Ohio by working to phase out the state’s corporate franchise tax, eliminate the tangible personal property tax on machinery and equipment and reduce the income tax by 21 percent.

These changes helped to make our state’s tax structure much more competitive. In fact, a Fortune 500 company recently made the decision to invest tens of millions of dollars in our area partly because of Ohio’s favorable tax climate compared to other states.

One of the advantages of tax reform has been that it has helped small businesses as much as large corporations. Previously, the taxes on personal property were often abated for big companies but not small ones. Now, everyone receives the same tax treatment.

Another important asset to the growth of Ohio’s economy is our workforce. I believe that we have excellent people who are loyal, honest and want to work. Government must continue to expand access to education at all levels to ensure Ohioans have the skills necessary to compete for jobs in a changing marketplace.

In the coming weeks, I plan to write a series of columns discussing key areas driving Ohio’s economy, including education, health care and agriculture.

This week, I would like to focus on the importance of energy to our state’s future growth and success. Access to affordable electricity is not only crucial to lighting Ohio homes but powering factories, production lines and equipment used by manufacturers and other businesses.

Coal currently generates more than 80 percent of the electricity in Ohio. I am concerned that new regulations being considered by Congress and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could significantly increase the cost of coal and make it very difficult to mine.

This would mean that you and I and businesses across Ohio would have to pay more for electricity, taking money away from already tight family budgets and stifling development and job creation in our state. This is not a recipe for economic success.

I continue to support efforts to develop a nuclear power plant in Piketon. This project is years away from fruition, but if and when the facility is completed, it would have a transformative effect on our region and all of Ohio by creating thousands of jobs and expanding the availability of affordable energy.

We also need to pursue policies that would help our state take better advantage of natural gas as an energy source.

In addition, I recently supported Senate Bill 232, legislation that seeks to make Ohio more competitive in attracting solar, wind and other alternative energy generation facilities. These technologies have the potential to create jobs in our state, and we should continue to promote research and development in this area.

However, it would be a big mistake to believe that these sources of energy can replace coal, natural gas and nuclear power.

In today’s world, the economy changes very rapidly, and we must as a state make changes to keep up and give Ohioans the best opportunity to succeed. Other states and countries are exploring the use of new energy sources, and Ohio should as well.

But, the future success of our state also depends on the ability of Ohio families and business to access affordable, reliable power.

For that reason, we must develop an energy strategy that balances the use of all these power sources in a way that is efficient, environmentally-responsible and provides the greatest benefit to our state’s economy and Ohio workers.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District. He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.