Almost as soon as today’s news that Chiquita was moving its global headquarters out of Cincinnati, Kasich and his conservative supporters went into overdrive trying to make the case that this news is somehow different from the announcement of NCR moving its HQ out of Dayton under Governor Strickland.
After all, JobsOhio was formed under the theory that the Ohio Department of Development was poorly equipped to make compelling offers to keep companies from leaving Ohio. Kasich cited, ad nausem, NCR to claim that Ohio’s economic woes were not attributable to the national recession, but to Strickland’s failed leadership. Kasich claimed that he would have been more personally involved and has explicitly promised no “NCRs” on his watch. Something that Mark Kvamme himself has promised.
According to Chiquita’s CEO, the State of Ohio didn’t get seriously involve until U.S. Senator Rob Portman got involved. He states Kasich got involved, but doesn’t say how much or when. But here’s some of the excuses offered by Kasich (and his supporters) and why they’re bunk:
“Anything more than what Ohio offered would constitute as giving away the store.”
In his official statement, Governor Kasich suggested that the Administration was acting as responsible to taxpayers, and suggested that if it had done more it would have been the equivalent of “giving away the store.”
But how does the $6.5 million the State offers measure up to other deals the Kasich Administration offered (or for that matter, the Strickland Administration offered NCR?)
# of jobs
Cost per “saved” jobs
* Connotes deals in which the company can keep the State’s incentive package to stay in Ohio even if they cut jobs.
As you can see, the Chiquita offer was rather low compared to other offers the Kasich Administration has made, and even what Strickland offered NCR to stay. So, is Kasich conceded the earlier deals were ones in which he might have “given away the store?” Ohio probably couldn’t, or shouldn’t, try to match North Carolina’s offer, which would have, per job, worked to be north of American Greetings. However, it’s equally true that the offer Ohio made on Chiquita was substantially less per job than Kasich’s average and what he’s offered on some of the deals he himself has touted as success stories.
So it begs the question: did Ohio truly make its most competitive offer?
“The company has issues beyond what incentives can address.”
Specifically, Kasich today argued that Chiquita moved due to the lack of direct international flights out of Cincinnati. One conservative blogger even tried to credit Kasich for predicting this as being a problem in retaining Chiquita.
You know what Kasich did since identifying this as a problem back in February?
Isn’t leadership about solving problems, and not just identifying them for others? Hold that thought, was there’s issues for NCR beyond what incentives can address?
As a result, [NCR CEO Bill] Nuti said, the practicality of Dayton demanded a hard look. Transportation costs were high, and flights to and from the airport often required “multiple hops” for customers and employees. And attracting top talent was a struggle, he said. “We had a very difficult time recruiting people to live and work in Dayton.”
True, downtown Dayton is profoundly challenged. And true, its main airport simply cannot match Atlanta’s vast offering of nonstop flights.
[Source: Berry, Dan. “In a Company’s Hometown, the Emptiness Echoes,” New York Times (Jan. 24, 2010).]
Remember Candidate Kasich acknowledging that NCR left due to the lack of direct flights in Dayton, and not the lack of a privatized economic development company? Me either.
Here’s a crazy thought. Perhaps instead of blaming our tax codes, labor unions, and government regulations for losing these jobs and in return frantically looking to throw millions at certain companies to try to entice them to stay, why don’t we instead take that money to, uh, I dunno, entice the airlines to offer more direct international flights out of Dayton and Cincinnati? Silly me, if the lack of flights out of the airports is costing us jobs, I would focus on it instead of, say, having the State’s lead economic development person develop new drivers licenses and license plates because the Governor doesn’t like them (even though the color of the license was specifically urged as a measure to deter forgeries.) Just a thought.
“[Chiquita] doesn’t want to be here or which has already made up its mind to leave.”
The end of the Governor’s statement suggests that Chiquita didn’t want to be in Ohio and had already made up its mind to leave. Assuming that is even true, can you imagine what Candidate Kasich would say if a company left Ohio and some suggested there was nothing to be done? Can you imagine if people had said that in Strickland’s defense?
Oh, wait, you already know that because that was exactly the situation with NCR. But don’t take my word for it, here’s what Republican Jon Husted said about NCR at the time:
“As a Monday morning quarterback, I can tell you there are probably lots of things that could have been done differently (by state and local officials), but I don’t think anything would have changed the outcome,” Husted said. “They (NCR executives) were never interested in engaging on the issue.” [Dayton Daily News 6/7/2009]
Jon Husted, an Ohio state senator, came away from the meeting feeling angry and frustrated. “They already knew they were leaving,” he said.
See, NY Times, supra.
By the time Strickland became Governor, most of NCR’s jobs had already shipped to Georgia:
[Nutti] also noted that the NCR of today has 22,000 employees around the world, and that by the time of the break-up announcement it had more employees in Georgia than the 1,200 it had in Ohio.
You see, Nutti was a CEO who operated out of NYC, despite the corporate HQ being officially in Dayton, while it had few employees in Ohio outside of its HQ, unlike in other States such as Georgia. Nutti never moved to Dayton, even though it was required in his contract. He even had the company stop making donations to the Dayton Development Coalition, the area’s private economic development corporation that was then run by one of Kasich’s now former Director of the Ohio Department of Development.
Despite this evidence, Kasich has never been deterred in suggesting that somehow the loss of NCR was avoidable, but for Strickland and the Ohio Department of Development. Again, this is one of the cornerstone for why we now have had JobsOhio forced down our throats, but was one of Kasich’s major arguments in his campaign. Not once was Candidate Kasich willing to consider that NCR was a company that just simply could not be persuaded to be kept. So, why is acceptable for Governor Kasich to make that argument?
At least Chiquita’s CEO worked in Cincinnati.
It’s okay because other companies are already slated to move into Chiquita’s building in Cincinnati.
The Kasich Administration’s last line of defense is to point out that OmniCare and Nielsen is poised to move into the building in numbers higher than those lost by Chiquita’s move. But that’s a crazy defense since those jobs were already in the region. In fact, just across the river. You can actually see where those jobs are today, and where they’re moving by just turning around at the riverfront. So, since these jobs are already in the region, their benefit to the local economy is rather minimal.
The real question is whether the State’s economic development efforts been too distracted with having to make the transition from a public to a private entity (Jobs Ohio still needs legislative approval to assume duties presently belonging to Development) or irrelevant, trivial projects like redesigning Ohio’s drivers license and plates (something that is normally left to the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles, who was conspicuously absent from Kasich’s presser) that the Chiquita deal fell through the cracks or not given the attention it deserved.
When NCR announced it was moving its HQ to Atlanta, we quickly learned of Governor Strickland’s personal involvement in trying to prevent the move. When Chiquita announced, the Kasich Administration was quick to defensively dismiss any effort to prevent it from moving to be a lost cause. That’s the difference between NCR and Chiquita. Another term for the difference is: hypocrisy.
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