Governor Mike DeWine’s state of the state address last week offered an optimistic view of Ohio. Borrowing a line from Bengals star Joe Burrow, Mr DeWine told the General Assembly that Ohio “comes for everything”. The governor gave lawmakers a solid pep talk, and his optimism is well-placed and infectious.
After decades of struggling to adapt to a changing global market battered by automation, foreign competition, and deindustrialization, Ohio is collecting its fair share of success stories. Multinational corporations like Intel are investing in the state and the economic sunshine is peaking through the post-pandemic clouds.
But getting Ohio’s economy from where it is today to where Mr. DeWine would like it to be tomorrow will take more work. And the state should work smarter, not harder, as the old saying goes, in making better policy choices that will propel Ohio into the 21st century economy.
Ohio’s economic struggles are well documented. In 2018, the Brookings Institution assessed 70 older industrial cities across the country, ranking them as strong, emerging, stabilizing, and vulnerable. Nationally, more than half of cities ranked strong or emerging, but less than a quarter of Ohio’s ranked cities could say the same.
A March 2022 report by the Economic Innovation Group lamented Ohio as a state that “demonstrates the false promise of economic ‘stability’ based on low churn and change rates.” And the Buckeye Institute has sadly shown how state and local policy mistakes have made Ohio unresponsive to market changes, even as other cities in the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Utah have adjusted. faster and thrived.
Fortunately, the political mistakes that have plagued Ohio can be corrected.
Outdated professional licensing laws, for example, have suffocated labor markets with regulatory bottlenecks and widened gaps between employer needs and employee skills. These outdated laws and regulations reduce worker and business flexibility, make it harder for professionals licensed in other states to put their skills to work here, contribute to labor shortages, and slow already anemic population growth. of Ohio – which cost the state the economic benefits. of specialization. A pair of bills currently pending in the General Assembly would update those laws and make it easier for employers to hire staff, attract foreign workers, and deliver goods and services more reliably and affordable. It’s a beginning.
Policymakers should also pursue more structural changes to reform how Ohio trains, educates, develops and reskills its workforce. The state should modify its post-secondary education funding, for example, to reflect outcome-oriented parameters such as loan repayment rates, debt-to-income ratios, graduation, and education. employment after graduation. And micro-certification programs modeled after Ohio’s TechCred program — which provides financial assistance to companies that invest in their workforce and help their employees earn short-term diplomas or work certificates — should be extended and made more available.
Finally, Ohio should consider working with policymakers in Washington to create a state-based visa program that would give the state greater influence in attracting highly skilled immigrants who tend to be enterprising and inventive. . Attracting a talented international workforce will help spur lagging population growth and will likely encourage more foreign investment, both of which are powerful catalysts for economic growth.
Ohio isn’t where it needs to be yet, but Mr. DeWine has good reason for his continued optimism. And by righting past mistakes and making better economic policy choices, Ohio could soon “come for everything.”
Logan Kolas is an economic policy analyst at the Center for Economic Research at the Buckeye Institute and author of “Policy Solutions for More Innovation: Modernizing Ohio’s Policies to Sixteen New Economic Opportunities.”