Even according to its metrics, JobsOhio gets a middling grade

By: - June 14, 2022 4:00 am

JobsOhio has been promoting its “Ohio is For Leaders” marketing campaign on billboards and in TV advertising. Screenshot from YouTube.

JobsOhio insists on grading itself according to its chosen criteria. But when it eventually shared parts of its own analysis, even that put Ohio in the middle of the pack relative to the six states JobsOhio compares itself to.

The economic-development agency has spent more than $1 billion since 2015, but last month it said that it’s not fair to judge it based on Ohio’s generally sluggish economy. Instead, it says it should be evaluated in the 10 sectors on which it chooses to focus.

However, even the partial analysis the agency shared last week shows that Ohio lost or didn’t gain market share in four of the 10 sectors between 2010 and 2020 when compared to West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Between 2010 and 2019, Ohio lost market share in half of the sectors, a table shared by JobsOhio shows.

Source: JobsOhio

The agency didn’t share its data, but it said it had also done a national analysis of the sectors on which it focuses. It said Ohio’s job performance was a bit above average.

“Based on our analysis of year-end 2019 data, Ohio ranked 19th among all states based on percentage job growth during the 2011-2019 time period in the ten sectors where we focus,” spokesman Ryan Squire said in an email. “Based on extrapolated data for year-end 2021, Ohio ranks approximately 21st among all states in job growth based on the 2011-2021 time period in the ten sectors where we focus. Both facts indicate that Ohio’s economic turnaround continues, as the state ranked 49th from 2005-11 prior to the creation of JobsOhio.”

The legislature created JobsOhio at Gov. John Kasich’s behest in 2011. In an exclusive deal, it allowed the agency enter into a 25-year “lease” of the state liquor monopoly for vastly less than the monopoly generates. So while the non-profit corporation claims it’s “wholly funded by an independent private source,” it’s talking about revenue that went into the state treasury before it was created. Presumably, taxpayers have had to pick up at least part of the tab in its absence.

JobsOhio’s expenditures and payroll have exploded since 2015, with the agency last year employing 106 with an average pay and benefits package of $180,000 a year.

Even so, Ohio continues to struggle according to a variety of measures. U.S. News & World Report ranks the state economy 34th, Quality Counts gave Ohio’s educational system a C-, Ohio had the 15th-highest child poverty rate in 2020 and Cleveland was ranked the poorest large city in the country the same year.

Squire has made the point that the agency didn’t start spending substantial sums until 2015, so it’s still early days when it comes to evaluating the agency’s economic performance. And some big economic-development “wins” — including a massive Intel chip factory in New Albany and a $1.5 billion investment by Ford in Lorain County — have announced in recent months, but the jobs that will come from them can only be counted in the future.

But to some critics, JobsOhio clearly hasn’t delivered on the economic development promises that were made more than a decade ago.

“Given Ohio’s subpar performance in job, income and economic growth over the past decade, JobsOhio clearly hasn’t done the job,” Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters Ohio, said in an email. “We were told when JobsOhio was created that economic development needed to be done in secrecy to be successful. That hasn’t worked.”

Last month, Squire told the Capital Journal that it’s “not accurate to hold JobsOhio accountable to the entire economy of the state…” Instead he set his own criteria on which to grade the agency — the 10 business sectors on which he said JobsOhio focuses.

In an appearance last week on WOSU’s “All Sides With Ann Fisher,” he explained that the businesses in those sectors are are moveable between states and are the object of intense competition.

But Schiller, of Policy Matters, said he doesn’t “accept their idea that they should only be compared in those sectors they’ve chosen. That isn’t what we were told when JobsOhio was created.”

For his part, Squire said his agency has done pretty well, given the fact that Ohio is growing at an anemic pace.

“While we are rated 21st in growth in the ten sectors in 2021, Ohio’s population growth was 44th from 2010-2020, showing that we are competing and winning far above the growth of our population,” he said.



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Marty Schladen
Marty Schladen

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He's won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.