Jobs, clean energy focus of Strickland’s address

Governor places spotlight on the economy, not higher education

Gov. Ted Strickland briefly mentioned higher education in yesterday’s State of the State address — a respite from his main focus: jobs and the struggling economy.

The governor emphasized ways Ohio’s public universities could contribute to economic growth during his fourth address to the state in Columbus.

Strickland said Ohio is nearing an agreement for its system of universities to perform research for product manufacturer Procter & Gamble. His administration also hopes to link Ohio public university research to the auto industry, Strickland said.

Ohio Education Chancellor Eric Fingerhut said a collaboration deal between universities and Procter & Gamble could be completed in the first half of this year.

“Obviously, with the governor calling for it today, that’ll help,” Fingerhut said. “If we can do it with Procter & Gamble, one of the largest companies in the world, then we can do it with other sectors.”

Fingerhut said faculty and students at public universities would directly work to research and develop products for the company — a potentially lucrative deal aimed at making the state more appealing to diverse industries.

“Our goal is to be the best public university system in the nation that’s driving the prosperity of our citizens,” Fingerhut said. “And to do that we have to be user friendly.”

Crystal Cook, Kent State’s senior legislative officer, said she was not aware of a potential deal between the university system and Procter & Gamble.

“I’m not yet certain of the specifics of it,” said Cook, who attended yesterday’s address. “We will be a part of it to the extent that we are a part of the state’s public university system.”

Though Strickland placed little emphasis on Ohio’s higher education, Cook said job growth and economic recovery are directly related to the state’s public universities.

“In his last address to the state he talked about higher education extensively,” Cook said. “He has demonstrated that higher education is a priority, so I wasn’t thrown back by him not particularly addressing it.”

Following Strickland’s address, Gordon Gee, Ohio State University president, said in an interview that Ohio will have to “get over our Midwestern modesty” in order to recover from its current economic slump. President Lester Lefton did not attend the address.

“A university is no longer a place to send a student like you to have a good time,” Gee said. “We’re the economic engines of a state. The creation of job opportunities, innovation, economic growth and creativity is all driven by universities.”

Contact administration reporter Jenna Staul

at [email protected].

Investment in energy seen as source for jobs in the Rust Belt

There was one repeated sentiment in Ted Strickland’s State of the State address: He believes in Ohio.

“I believe in Ohio because we have made a commitment to renewable energy and we are seeing results,” Strickland said yesterday to a full audience.

He said the state ranks No. 1 in new green jobs created last year and No. 1 in renewable energy manufacturing projects.

Strickland said he wants to keep the momentum going because renewable energy will help the economy and create jobs.

Yesterday’s speech was an opportunity for the governor to tell legislators and Ohioans where the state is, was and could be. Strickland is running for re-election this November. A Dayton Daily News/ Ohio Newspaper Poll released Sunday showed Strickland trailing Republican challenger John Kasich, 51-45 percent.

He announced the creation of the Energy Gateway Fund, a $40 million commitment of federal and state stimulus funds to grow and sustain fuel cell, solar, wind and energy storage industries. The fund will offer capital to renewable energy companies with products ready for the commercial market.

To entice renewable energy companies, Strickland asked the legislature to eliminate Ohio’s tangible personal property tax on generation for wind and solar facilities that start construction this year, produce energy by 2012 and create Ohio jobs.

“There will come a day when Ohio will be the undisputed home of renewable energy,” he said. “A day when we will have cast off those two tired little words that have been used to put us down.

“Rust Belt. Because that’s not who we are. A day when the iconic image of the Texas oil rig will be eclipsed by the Ohio-made wind turbine and solar panel.”

Following the speech, Mark Shanahan, the governor’s energy adviser, said energy is a way to create jobs by building those technologies and using renewable energy technologies.

“It’ll create jobs in different ways,” Shanahan said. “First, there’s the construction connected with the installation. Secondly, there’s an ongoing need for maintenance or service to keep the technology functioning. And hopefully, there will be Ohio manufacturing jobs tied to making the component parts — the wind turbines, the blades or the solar arrays.”

Strickland grew solemn as he began to talk about Ohioans who are suffering. Last year, he said 835 people applied for one job opening as a janitor at a junior high school in Stark County.

He announced the creation of four job-training programs that should be the focus of new revenue for the state from casino licensing fees.

• The Small Business Growth Partnership will create a business lending clearinghouse to help small businesses find sources of capital to grow their company and create jobs.

• Insource Ohio will work with any Ohio company currently outsourcing or considering outsourcing to remain competitive. The program is a collaboration between the Ohio Department of Development, Job and Family Services and the Board of Regents.

• A Manufacturing Certificate will give those who have worked in manufacturing the opportunity to obtain a credential to take to future employers. Certificate holders will be able to earn credit toward additional job training and education. The certificate documents their full range of job skills and experience.

• Build Your Own Business will offer unemployed Ohioans courses and training on starting a business. Participants will have access to business mentors and to small startup loans of up to $5,000. The program is a partnership with the state’s Small Business Development Centers, Ohio’s community colleges and adult career centers.

“I believe in Ohio because we favor common sense solutions over ideological extremes,” Strickland said.

Kathleen Chandler, representative for the 68th House District, said in an interview she was pleased with the governor’s speech.

“I think the State of the State was inspiring and illustrates the programs we’re creating to produce jobs,” she said. “Ohio has taken some very bold steps to move Ohio forward in improving the economy and providing jobs all the way.”

Contact public affairs reporter Nicole Stempak

at [email protected].