Thursday, December 08, 2011

GUEST COLUMN: "Creating Economic Opportunity in Ohio"

St. Rep. Louis Terhar
By State Rep. Louis Terhar

The 129th General Assembly has been in session for almost a year now and, throughout that time, we have focused on job creation. When I was sworn in as your state representative in September, I was eager to add my background in business to this effort. It is truly amazing how much has been accomplished in only 12 months, and I am confident that we will make great strides in the second half of this legislative session as well.

Much of my work since joining the Ohio House has been in the Economic and Small Business Development Committee. The mission of this committee has been to introduce legislation that proposes creative ways to strengthen the state’s economy. We are currently working on a couple of bills which work towards these ends.

Many of our jobs bills work through the non-profit entity passed earlier in the year, called JobsOhio. The JobsOhio Network program will work with six partners in different areas of Ohio, each of which will establish regional-specific development plans. The regional partners will also promote Ohio in the global market by encouraging new product formation and economic innovation.

Sometimes in politics, we have a habit of devoting most of our attention to short-term fixes—temporary bills that may make an impact initially, but do little to tackle long-term problems. However, to make Ohio economically competitive for generations to come, we have also passed legislation that is more oriented toward the future.

In August, Ohio Third Frontier, a technology-based economic development initiative, awarded funds to each of the six regional programs. This money will help to stimulate new business growth and jumpstart job creating efforts across Ohio. However, these programs are not just about making employment opportunities, but also bringing permanent wealth-creating jobs and businesses to Ohio that will produce new goods and services that people need. Ohio has made the commitment to support entrepreneurial efforts and open innovation, and we are making good on our promises.

We are currently working on developing a program that will secure a stronger partnership between state institutions and private entities. The program is based very closely off of the Research Triangle Park developed in North Carolina in the 1950s, which was instrumental in attracting research-oriented companies to the state and, thus, expanding the economy. By strengthening the bond between these companies and the universities throughout the state, more local college graduates were able to pursue interests in those related fields and then stay in the state following graduation.

Developing a similar program here in Ohio could go a long way toward solving the problem of seeing young individuals graduate from college and then moving to another state to pursue their careers.

It is important for our state government to focus not only on short-term interests, but also to work towards a better long-term future for our children and grandchildren. If you have any ideas that you feel will benefit Ohio, please feel free to contact my office at any time. Ensuring a strong future for our state is a joint effort, and I would love to hear your input as we move into the new year.