Ohio Gov. John Kasich spent over an hour last Tuesday delivering a largely self-congratulatory State of the State Address in Wilmington, in which he touted his economic development and job creation recovery talents since winning the job as state CEO from Gov. Strickland in 2010.
According to its publishing schedule, Site Selection Magazine reports annually, in early March, its list of Governor’s Cup Competition winners, based on economic-development projects per capita as well as total projects. On Monday the magazine reported that Ohio finished second behind Texas in total projects and came in second to Kentucky on per capita basis.
Former Gov. Ted Strickland lost a narrow race to Gov. John Kasich by fewer people than it takes to fill Ohio State University’s famed football stadium in Columbus. That defeat followed a four-year term that included three of the worst economic years since the Great Depression some 75-plus years earlier. The Great Recession that unfolded during Gov. Strickland’s single term was deeper and broader than any previous recession. The nation has struggled to recovery from it, and Ohio, as experts instruct us, is still more than 100,000 jobs short of pre-Great Recession levels.
But now that Mr. Strickland is back in the game of politics, announcing recently that he’ll take on Rob Portman, Ohio’s junior U.S. Senator, national and state Republicans are huffing and puffing as they hope to blow his campaign down with retread stories of how hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost on his watch. GOP message makers pretend Strickland inherited a state brimming with good times and lots of jobs, when in fact Ohio had been slipping for many years before he became governor. The GOP narrative is that Ohio was an economic miracle, but Mr. Strickland’s big government, tax-and-spend ways tanked an otherwise thriving state. In fact, as economic researcher George Zeller has pointed out numerous times here at Plunderbund, Ohio had still not recovered from the recession of 2000 before the big one hit in 2008. By the time Congressman Strickland won his lopsided 2-1 vote election against his Republican challenger, Ken Blackwell, who wanted to impose a flat tax that essentially did what Gov. Kasich’s tax plan does now, siphon from the less well off and redistribute those funds as subsidies to the very wealthy, Ohio was already hurting.
While it’s laudable that Gov. Kasich has repeated second place two years in a row, Gov. Strickland came out tops with Site Selection Magazine for three of his four years as governor.
In 2008, the year the Great Recession started, Ohio won its second consecutive Governor’s Cup, proof, the magazine said, that manufacturing-intensive states can diversify their economies and retool their labor supplies enough to win its annual corporate-facilities race.
In 2009, in its cover article called “Eyes on the Prize,” Ohio claimed its third Governor’s Cup in a row, “thanks to the Strickland Administration’s focus on taking the steps necessary to be competitive, even in a challenging economic environment.” Strickland’s success was based on investing in infrastructure and other key industry sectors as advanced energy. “This is good news in the midst of what too frequently is unhappy news,” Gov. Strickland told Site Selection Magazine. “We are working in different ways to make Ohio among the most competitive states in the nation, with our tax structure being one of them. Our emphasis on high quality and affordable education at every level is another. We’re doing the best we can in the midst of difficult circumstances.”
Ohio demonstrated once again, the magazine said, “that winning the Governor’s Cup even in challenging economic times requires keeping the end goal of job creation in mind while making tactical adjustments as necessary. “We cannot allow challenges of the moment to deter us from doing the things that will enable us to participate fully in the recovery that will come,” Gov. Strickland said. “We have to maintain our commitment to those efforts that will be essential once the economic storm has passed.”
Strickland out-performed the national average on job creation, during these challenging times, while Gov. Kasich has consistently under-performed the national average for more than 26 consecutive months, as Mr. Zeller has repeatedly point out. In his first two years, Gov. Strickland’s administration funded more than 450 advanced energy projects with investments of about $175 million, including investments in wind, solar, biofuel, biomass and fuel cells. “Because of our advanced energy portfolio standards, I consider that to be the ticket of admission to the alternative energy competition,” Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher said. Gov. Kasich became the first governor to roll back advanced energy when he signed a bill freezing for two years the state’s renewable energy portfolio.
Then in 2010, in it’s article called “One More Time,” Ohio won its fourth consecutive Governor’s Cup, as devised by Site Selection Magazine. Given this economy, not doing as well in 2009 as in 2008 at attracting capital investment isn’t necessarily bad, Arend wrote. In fact, it can be great, he said, if you still did better than everyone else. “Weighing in at 381 projects (it had 503 last time), Ohio squeaked past runners-up Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania in a repeat of last year’s pecking order, with 374, 371 and 335 projects respectively,” the magazine said.
Strickland said, “We have worked to cut red tape where we could appropriately do that. We had a robust effort to look at all of the state regulations that businesses must deal with and, where possible, eliminate them, and in many other cases modify them so they were less of a burden.” Other contributing factors included Gov. Strickland’s commitment to keeping utility costs low, which accounts for why Ohio’s electricity rates for businesses at the time were about 10 percent less than the national average.
“We have reduced the size of government by 5,000 employees since I became governor three years ago, and we have continued even in this recession to invest in education and job creation. We have increased funding for elementary and secondary education by an average of 5.5 percent over the biennial budget we are currently living through,” Gov. Strickland said, adding, “I believe we have done more than any other state in America to constrain the costs of college tuition at our public institutions.”
Gov. Kasich mocks President Obama’s stimulus bill, but has never said what he would have done without it had he been governor. The $1.57-billion stimulus bill signed into law in June 2008 contributed significantly to Ohio’s business climate in 2009, Gov. Strickland said. “We did that well before the federal government decided to pass their stimulus bill, and that has given us some access to tools we have used to encourage investment in Ohio.” Companies in the logistics and renewable energy sectors were among the beneficiaries of that program.
In its 2011 rankings, based on 2010 performance, Texas took the lead as Ohio came in second. Gov. Kasich reclaimed first place in 2012, only to lose it back to Texas a year later. So whether Site Selection Magazine’s Governor’s Cup ranking is important or not, it’s clear that the GOP narrative of good things gone bad under Gov. Strickland deserves a couple pinnochios, especially now that Ohio under Gov. Kasich ranks 37th overall in job creation by Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business.