Sunday, June 27, 2004

Taft reflects on Ohio's progress in recent months

Initiatives aimed at keeping state on track in an improving economy

By Bob Taft
Guest column

Ohio's economy is picking up steam, as evidenced by the 900 new jobs DHL will bring to Wilmington. That is good news for the hundreds of Ohio businesses that struggled to make ends meet during the past several years, and good news for employers and job seekers in Southwest Ohio.

Economic indicators are pointing to better times ahead for the state and nation, and in Ohio, we've created more than 30,000 jobs since December. My focus is to power up Ohio's job creation engine by addressing critical components for improving Ohio's economic climate, including tort reform, economic development, and tax reform.

We have launched the Third Frontier Project, a multi-year endeavor to advance Ohio's transition to a knowledge economy. This project will help the Cincinnati area build on its strength as one of the nation's top 20 biotech cities. Cincinnati is rapidly developing as one of the really promising biomedical research and production centers in our nation and the world, thanks to companies like Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Barr Labs, Procter and Gamble Pharmaceuticals, Kendle International, Atricure, Girindus America, Meridian BioScience, Inc., Medpace, and innovative researchers at the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

Today, we're competing aggressively, project by project, for good jobs, and we've got some good stories to tell. In addition to DHL, we scored a major victory when LabOne in Cincinnati recently announced its intent to add 400 new jobs to the area. And SUMCO, a leader in making silicon wafers for computers, will spend $50 million and create 260 good-paying jobs in Warren County. USEC announced it would invest $1 billion to create 500 new jobs in southern Ohio.

But Ohio competes in a brutally competitive world economy. We must continually improve our climate for business.

My Jobs Bill and Jobs Cabinet will improve our economic development efforts through new tools to attract and retain jobs, improve workforce training and reduce red tape. The bill doubles our commitment to match company job-training dollars. Ohio's central location is a major advantage for manufacturing and distribution. So, we're also creating jobs and improving safety and mobility on Ohio's highway network through a 10-year, $5 billion blueprint for major new construction across the state. Projects around Cincinnati include much-needed work on I-75, including reconfiguring the approaches to the Brent Spence Bridge.

We also need to curb the frivolous lawsuits and excessive damage awards that are driving up the cost of doing business. Some large Ohio companies have gone into bankruptcy because of unjustified litigation and many small companies are only one lawsuit away from the same fate. There's no question we can compensate injured parties fully and fairly and still protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits but we must act now. I was pleased to sign asbestos and silica tort reform bills, and will continue to travel the state in support of SB 80, the comprehensive lawsuit reform bill.

Another area where we must not delay is tax reform. Our outdated tax code is costing Ohioans jobs. Last year I proposed a sweeping plan to lower rates, broaden the base and treat taxpayers fairly. We know that tax reform is hard to do but it must be done. The General Assembly is currently debating tax reform and I'm hopeful meaningful reform will enhance our efforts to attract jobs to the state.

And there is no doubt those jobs will be met by the best workforce in the nation.

Ohio's businesses are at the heart of a competitive global economy. We are working hard to ensure the business climate in all regions of our state continues to give our companies the competitive edge.


Bob Taft has been governor of Ohio since January 1999.

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