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The Columbus Dispatch Editorial
Job No. 1: Gov. Kasich enlists business people to lure business to Ohio
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

With his JobsOhio proposal, Gov. John Kasich seeks to put in place the elements to revitalize Ohio’s economic-development efforts: a focused, nimble entity with the single mission of creating jobs, and plenty of business savvy on-board to direct it.

The bill introduced yesterday to create JobsOhio spelled it out: The nine-member board, with the governor as chairman, would include eight business leaders with track records of success in creating jobs.

Nothing will be more effective in creating jobs than leadership by people who have shown they know how to do just that.

Six of the members, according to the bill, must live in Ohio. An understanding of business conditions and opportunities in the state obviously is important. But so is leaving room for two business leaders with a broader perspective. They could bring a fuller understanding of Ohio’s strengths and weaknesses compared with other states vying for new businesses.

Including board members with a national perspective is one idea contributed by new Development Director Mark Kvamme, the Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist Kasich has hired for $1 to transform the state’s economic development. It should be only one of many contributions by Kvamme, who has helped launch some of the world’s most successful high-tech companies.

He intends to get JobsOhio up and running and decide what to do with the rest of the Department of Development within six months. He shares Kasich’s determination to move “at the speed of business” and to avoid building red tape into the new process.

That’s a key to success for JobsOhio. The Department of Development wasn’t always the bureaucratic mishmash of unrelated missions that it is today. It was created in the days of “Rhodes’ Raiders,” when Republican Gov. James A. Rhodes in the 1960s sent handpicked teams of business executives to lure companies from around the country and the globe. The department was meant to give some organizational structure to those efforts, but in the decades since has grown to a $1.2 billion bureaucracy with 400 employees, only 60 of whom are directly involved in creating jobs.

The department houses home-weatherization programs, initiatives to aid the homeless and other functions unrelated to economic development.

Part of Kvamme’s job will be to provide guidance for the legislature on which of those functions should be moved to other state agencies, which can be part of JobsOhio and which can be eliminated.

The Kasich team has committed to accountability and transparency in JobsOhio and the reorganization of the Development Department. Sufficient accountability measures would quell concerns about conflicts of interest and potential insider gaming of development efforts. Kasich’s plan creates an audit committee and requires an annual independent financial audit as well as regular reports on JobsOhio’s activities. Names and salaries of JobsOhio employees will be made public.

Good luck to those who answer the governor’s call to lead this effort.

Read the story at Columbus Dispatch

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