Ohio’s development director: ‘We have to stop the job loss’Written by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
James Leftwich, newly appointed director of the Ohio Department of Development (ODOD), spoke about “Leveraging Entrepreneurship in a Challenging Economy,” at an April 25 luncheon at the Hilton Toledo.
“We have to stop the job loss in Ohio and make smart investments in what we have by doing a better job of leveraging it and attracting new jobs,” Leftwich said.
JobsOhio, a new private non-profit organization, was created to run economic development in Ohio. It will focus on creating jobs with limited resources, said Leftwich, who was appointed to the position March 28.
As director, he oversees the daily operations of the ODOD and works closely with Mark Kvamme, director of job creation for Gov. John Kasich, to revitalize the state’s economic development and enhance Ohio’s business climate.
“We will focus on developing a stronger collaboration with all departments of the state, linking with federal and local resources to create the best business climate for entrepreneurs in Ohio,” Leftwich said.
He reported that Ohio was recently rated as having the third best business climate overall and ninth best business climate for entrepreneurs in the U.S.
“It’s not enough. We have to get past what’s been holding us back in the past and move forward. It’s going to be a fast-moving train,” Leftwich said.
“We’re going to work with regional partners that have a vested interest in what happens there and focus on strategic growth areas in Ohio.”
He indicated that the Regional Growth Partnership will be the lead partner in the Northwest Ohio region’s effort to build a network of business, academia and government. He said they already met with regional partners from across Ohio to outline how the state will work with them.
Leftwich said that Northwest Ohio has many assets and specifically mentioned manufacturing services, great logistics and distribution networks.
“We’re going to take those assets and work very closely with regional partners in Northwest Ohio to enable them to grow,” he said.
“How do we compete against states like Indiana that offer companies money in addition to the usual incentives to locate there?” Hans Rosebrock, manager of economic development in Ohio for FirstEnergy, asked Leftwich.
“It’s a touch challenge. We’ve got to find creative ways to do it using our strengths,” Leftwich said.
He cited partnering university research with industry to take technology to market by using the Third Frontier Program with another round of funding in 2011.
Ohio needs to make smart investments in alternative energy, advanced manufacturing, aerospace, biomedical and medical devices to create more high tech jobs, he said.
Prior to his appointment, Leftwich served as president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition, that region’s principal economic development organization. He led its economic development initiatives that resulted in the creation of more than 18,500 jobs and $1.5 billion of capital investment in that region.
The luncheon was presented by the UT College of Business and Innovation and PNC Bank.
“It was a valuable opportunity for business leaders to hear from the new director of the Ohio Department of Development,” said Brian Bucher, regional president for PNC Bank. “We are committed to providing critical resources to benefit entrepreneurs in the Toledo-area business community.”
Prior to his luncheon presentation, Leftwich participated in a discussion with about 40 local business leaders facilitated by Clint Longenecker, Stranahan Professor of leadership and organizational excellence at UT.
“We were very impressed with Jim Leftwich and had a very cordial meeting with him. He was not a typical government official meeting with business people. It was like a discussion around the family dinner table,” Longenecker said.
Leftwich is aware that Ohio needs to make it easier for business to get things done here, Longenecker said.
“Coming from Dayton and being an analytical guy, he understands what we’re up against in Toledo, competing with the three Cs (Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus) for economic development funding,” Longenecker said.
The College of Business and Innovation organized the discussion so people could meet him and he could learn about the needs of Northwest Ohio, he said.