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Focus has to be bringing jobs to Appalachia

Creating jobs is the cure for what economically ails Ohio, and I do not think there is any question on that point.

There are, however, many questions and concerns regarding JobsOhio — a non-profit entity that we created in our first House bill of the year — and its economic development efforts to keep and create jobs.

Many local leaders and stakeholders are concerned that they will be cut out of the loop.

First, many functions of the Department of Development, such as the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, Housing Trust Fund, Community Development Block Grant and other community development programs will continue to be administered as they are now.

JobsOhio, as I understand it, will work with six regional development offices to promote job creation and retention.

The Department of Development has had very good people working for it over the years, but it is not structured in a way to spur job creation.

It is very helpful once a project by a local community has been identified, but it has not brought many prospects to our region. I would be hard-pressed to identify one.

As a community member, I see opportunity to change the way things are done now and to bring results to our area. Those results, as outlined by the director of the Department of Development, include job creation and retention. A board has been appointed by Governor Kasich to fill JobsOhio.

There are nine members to the board, and eight have been appointed. I have asked the governor to appoint a person from the Appalachian region for the ninth spot.

We have many entrepreneurs that could bring something to the table, and I would favor expanding the board, if necessary, to add a person from this region.

As part of JobsOhio, the 87th Ohio House District and Appalachian region will be part of the Appalachian Business Council.

We are the only region in the state that has this kind of group advocating for our region. The other regions are Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, northeast Ohio and northwest Ohio.

I’ve heard concerns about the size of the region, which is a legitimate concern, but the three regional development commissions can be part of this effort.

Another concern is about where the office is located. In these days of e-mail and other technology advances, this does not concern me as much as not having a member from the region on the JobsOhio board.

Some economic developers do not want to see the region as Appalachia, but we are who we are. Maybe we can come up with a better marketing phrase, but another strategy would be to promote the strengths of Appalachia — strong work ethic, strong families and natural resources.

Finally, there is some money to be had with the transfer of Ohio’s liquor profits, and some economic development groups are concerned that they will be left out.

The way I understand it, the plan is that the Appalachian Business Council will contract with local stakeholders to provide services that spur job growth, such as visiting with local businesses and market outreach.

JobsOhio is a major change. We know that the results that we want are not there under the past system, so Appalachia needs to become a part of the process by sharing what we want to do for our future. The Appalachian Business Council is inclusive and welcomes new members.

Appalachia cannot sit back and say we do not want change, but what we can do is be part of how the change is taking place and attract jobs and investment to our region. It is for this reason we need a board member on JobsOhio to be at the table to give Ohioans, in general, and Appalachia, specifically, more jobs. The only way it will work for us is if we, as a region, are actively involved.

John Carey serves in Ohio’s 87th District of the House of Representatives, which includes eastern Lawrence County. He can be reached at (614) 466-1366, by writing to: Ohio House of Representatives, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43215, or via e-mail at District87@ohr.state.oh.us.