Toward A New Ohio

November is going to be a very important time for Ohio. We are going to elect a new governor who will lead us for at least the next four years. Whomever that is, there will be many challenges and opportunities.

A new report Toward a New Ohio released this morning, with the support of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University, is designed to help inform the gubernatorial candidates on important policy choices and decisions that lie ahead regarding the future of the state’s economy. Obviously, this is a subject that’s important to Ohio businesses and to every Ohioan.

The authors are Bill Shkurti, a retired The Ohio State University vice president and, Dr. Fran Stewart, a Senior Research Fellow at The Ohio State University’s Ohio Manufacturing Institute. The report includes a very interesting study of Ohio’s economy from the mid-60s to today.

Toward a New Ohio is broken into three parts. Paper one is titled The Decline of Ohio, which focuses on the economic trajectory of Ohio since the late 1960s. The evidence is that Ohio is still very much a manufacturing state. The advent of automation has simply changed what we produce and how many employees are needed.

The second paper is “Stuck in Neutral.” It has a broad discussion on how the fundamentals of the economy have changed from producing goods to providing services. The advent of a much more diversified set of employees is also evident. A focus on the correct training for the next generation of jobs.

The final paper is “Ohio Resurgent?” Its focus is where hope and reality meet. Where political and economic realities intersect. The authors list many questions to be pondered but argue that four areas are deserving of more attention from our next governor and legislature because they hold the most promise for improving the lives of Ohioans. They are how best to:

  1. stimulate the creation of new jobs in industry clusters that have the potential both to diversify the state’s economy and exploit its competitive advantages;
  2. align the needs of Ohio employers with the skills of Ohio workers, particularly in the mid-level skill range, and streamline education and training programs;
  3. address the unique challenges of Ohio workers and Ohio communities that have been unable to adapt to and compete in the modern economy;
  4. engage allies and develop effective political coalitions to shape federal policies that impact Ohio.

The first two, in particular, are important questions with which the Ohio Chamber has already been grappling. Through the Ohio Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation, we are currently undertaking a major research project – set for release this summer – to develop a vision and a series of goals, strategies, targets and public policy recommendations to advance Ohio’s technology-based economic development initiatives. This includes identifying the industry clusters that hold the most opportunity for Ohio.

In addition, attracting and retaining qualified employees is consistently one of the top issues of concern to business leaders, and we are constantly looking for ways to better align our education system to ensure our workforce is prepared for both today and for the future.

This new report should be something gubernatorial candidates and other policymakers give serious attention. As the report itself concludes, “the governor’s vision and actions must not be directed at recreating the Ohio that was, but on building the foundation for the Ohio that can be.”

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