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Economy and Business

Ohio's public-private jobs agency report raises questions
JobsOhio’s annual report leaves open to interpretation how much public money has been spent

Karen Kasler
Courtesy of JobsOhio
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The state’s new job creation entity has brought in and spent millions of dollars in two years, according to its annual report. But as Statehouse Correspondent Karen Kasler reports, there are new questions about how much money is involved and where it came from.

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JobsOhio’s annual report claims the entity assisted 277 companies that committed to creating or retaining 75,612 jobs in Ohio.

The Columbus Dispatch reports JobsOhio officials signed a contract for $10.27 million in July 2011 on its first day of existence, and then signed two contract extensions for a total of $3 million.

Those figures aren’t correct, says Laura Jones with JobsOhio. She says the initial contract was with the Ohio Business Development Coalition, a state marketing program that goes back to Gov. Bob Taft, and it was for around $5 million. Jones says when the coalition became part of JobsOhio, contracts had to be signed again – so it looks like more money came in. 

“That $10.2 (million), I think, is inaccurate. That’s an aggregate number so that includes what was awarded in June of 2010 and doesn’t count for it having been extended. Most of that was already spent by the time JobsOhio was created.”

The Dispatch story also says JobsOhio says it brought in almost $7 million in donations. A document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in January shows American Electric Power donated $2 millionto JobsOhio, but that’s the only disclosure so far. Jones says $7 million is the total that was donated to the the Business Development Coalitin, but says she can’t disclose where that money came from. 

“When we file our 990 very soon here, in the next month or so, those private donations – while the names will not be associated with those --there will be total amounts for those donations.” 

The state Legislature had also authorized a million dollars for JobsOhio’s startup costs, which JobsOhio had said it needed because lawsuits filed over the constitutionality of the entity had derailed spending plans that relied on JobsOhio leasing liquor profits. Jones says now that the liquor profits transfer has been authorized, the funding for JobsOhio is in place, and there won’t be any more donations.

But the Ohio Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in the JobsOhio constitutionality case. What Jones calls “misunderstandings” aren’t surprising to Dale Butland with Innovation Ohio, a liberal leaning think tank. He says JobsOhio’s annual report actually raised more questions than it answered. 

“We still don’t know how much public money has been spent. We still don’t know how JobsOhio calculates its return on investment, which means also have no idea whether the investments that JobsOhio has made have been good or bad. And we still don’t know, in the end, how many jobs we're going to have, or how many jobs have actually been created.”

Jones says JobsOhio has been very transparent and accountable and has filed all the paperwork it’s required to. But Butland disagrees on the transparency issue. 

“Many of the people on the board, we know, are big contributors of Gov. Kasich. And this money can be spent willy-nilly anywhere around the state, perhaps in support of the governor’s campaign, his re-election campaign. But I think that none of these questions are going to be answered until there’s some more transparency here.”

Documents from JobsOhio show half of the 26 salaries paid by the organization were at least $100,000, with JobsOhio’s president and CIO making $225,000 a year. Jones says those figures were accurate a few months ago, but that there are only 21 people working for JobsOhio now. Butland notes that the top salary is more that John Kasich makes as governor.

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