Warren County Commissioner Shannon Jones said the role of county government is to create an environment for jobs to be created by the private sector adding that the county’s strong financial foundation helps build a strong economy.
Jones moderated the Warren County Strategic Outlook Breakfast hosted by the Warren County Chamber Alliance at the Miami Valley Gaming Racino in Turtlecreek Twp. About 400 people attended the event to hear about some strategic initiatives from Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and leaders from JobsOhio, the Ohio Department of Development, and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
Jones touted the county’s strong financial position of having $12 million in cash reserves, $10 million allocated for an infrastructure bank and a $40 million cash carryover from the 2022 general fund budget. In addition to investing in the county’s water and sewer systems, the county is investing $5 million to leverage a $100 million investment in its broadband project over the next 36 months.
“We intend to be a leader in workforce development,” she said.
Another reason is the county’s 3.2% unemployment rate, which is lower than Ohio’s unemployment rate of 3.8% and the national rate of 3.9%. She pointed out that the private sector is creating the jobs, not the county.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the state is investing in workforce development, education and tax reform. He said the latest state unemployment rate of 3.8% is the lowest since 1976.
Husted touted Ohio’s latest economic development successes, adding that Intel coming to the state is creating “a whole new industry.”
“It’s exciting,” he said. “But talent is going to be the deciding factor.”
Husted said Ohio has been focusing on the diversification of industries. He praised Warren County for its diverse economy that includes tourism and logistics to health care, aerospace, machinery and eyewear.
“The whole southwest Ohio region is growing population,” Husted said. “It’s not whether you grow, but how you grow. With every success comes challenges. Housing is an important issue that counties are facing to support the workforce.”
Husted said the workforce is challenged because of changing demographics. He said the workforce age group of 25 to 60 range is shrinking.
He said Ohio’s career centers are full and there is a budget request for $300 million to expand career centers. Another $200 million is also being requested to upgrade machinery at colleges and universities.
“Those who collaborate best are those who win,” Husted said. “Business need to engage with educational institutions. ”
Lydia Mihalik, state development department director, said they are “marketing Ohio in a holistic way as being a great place to live and work... we need to attract people to come to Ohio.”
She said Ohio needs to be innovative, creative and industry-driving and “be responsive to industry’s needs.”
“This is Ohio’s time. Let’s do this together,” she said.
Rick Carfagna, a former township trustee and state legislator, leads the government affairs team for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and said Ohio is going through “a manufacturing renaissance” and there is a critical need for housing, childcare and transportation for the workforce.
“The state announced in 2022 that another 20,000-plus jobs are in the pipeline,” he said. “That’s like adding another Lebanon. ”
Carfagna said 60% of Ohio’s rural areas and 39% overall are in “childcare deserts.” Another “big problem” is a need for high schools to offer a computer science course where students learn coding, develop apps and websites.
“All companies need technology workers,” he said. “There are 65,000 workers in Ohio that are working on a H1B visa.”
The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers with specialized skills to work in the United States for a specific period of time.
J.P Nauseef, president and CEO of JobsOhio, said his organization was deploying a competitive program and are working with regional economic development partners such as the Dayton Development Coalition and REDI Cincinnati. He said Ohio is among the top 10 states with a positive business climate.
He also emphasized the importance of local officials and the private sector keep focusing on collaboration and education.
Mihalik said Warren County needs to understand what development it wants and to continue collaborating with their partners. She said the county has tremendous assets and it’s in a great part of the state that is conducive to development. “People want to be here,” she said.