Local economic development specialists want Gov. Kasich to officially reverse a Strickland-era policy that required developers pay union-scale wages on projects benefiting from public funding.
During a presentation to the Senate Ways & Means & Economic Development Committee Thursday, Ohio Economic Development Association officers said the new administration should clarify how prevailing wage law applies to privately funded portions of a project.
Although the Strickland Administration essentially backed off its 2008 guidelines applying prevailing wage requirements to any project involving both public and private funding, the word hasn’t gotten out, said OEDA Vice President Chris Strayer, development director for Canal Winchester.
“A lot of site selectors have crossed Ohio off their list because there’s no clarity on that,” he said, suggesting Gov. Kasich issue an executive order to publicize the fact that private projects are no longer subject to prevailing wage.
The Strickland Administration had said new guidelines were necessary to clarify prevailing wage law because it was being applied inconsistently across the state. However, after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the law applies only to work performed directly on a public improvement project, the administration reversed course.
Dennis Ginty, spokesman for the Department of Commerce, which enforces prevailing wage law, said the agency was applying the requirements on a case-by-case basis, while taking into account the Supreme Court ruling. DOC has not taken steps to publicize the current policy, he said.
Mr. Strayer said local economic development officials still had a hard time getting business relocation consultants to consider Ohio locations because of the policy change. “We’re still fighting a battle with the national site selectors saying, ‘It’s back to the way it was before,’” he said, adding the response often amounts to: “Well, you guys might change your mind.”
In presenting several policy recommendations Mr. Strayer, along with OEDA President Jamie Beier Grant, also recommended lawmakers create a $1 billion Great Lakes Angel Fund to help transition emerging companies from the early stages to production. While the Third Frontier Program is effective in fostering new technologies, Ohio lacks resources to advance enterprising ideas, he said. “We lose a lot of these companies that we probably don’t even know we have,” he said, adding the emerging companies usually move to places like Silicon Valley, where more angel funding is available.
Mr. Strayer said the funding could come, in part, as a loan from pension funds.