Gov. John Kasich’s JobsOhio plan continues to evolve, with local business leaders being named to a related board.
The local people, including Virginia Albanese of FedEx Custom Critical in Green, and Anthony Alexander of Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., are joining the expanded board of the nonprofit Team NEO, a regional business-attraction group.
Under Kasich’s plan, Team NEO will be the regional branch of JobsOhio, the private not-for-profit corporation designed to expand economic development in the state.
Kasich, who focused on jobs during his campaign for governor in 2010, has said JobsOhio, with the expertise of business people on its own board of directors, will move “at the speed of business” in creating jobs.
Team NEO, formed in 2003 by area chambers of commerce, is one of six regional organizations throughout Ohio that will contract with and report to JobsOhio — serving as liaisons to the state on job creation and retention efforts.
The 13 business leaders — including seven whose offices are in Summit and Stark counties — will help existing Team NEO board members oversee the group’s new role as the JobsOhio Network “regional partner,” said CEO Tom Waltermire.
Team NEO is officially releasing the names of the new board members today.
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, who has been critical of JobsOhio, said the new board members “help make [the new setup] better.”
“We’ll work with whomever,” he said. “It helps we have people looking out for the interests here in Summit County.”
Earlier this month, Plusquellic criticized JobsOhio — and the new regional offices that include Team NEO — in an article in Crain’s Cleveland Business.
Plusquellic, echoing comments made to Crain’s, said the JobsOhio setup adds an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. JobsOhio will work with a restructured Ohio Department of Development.
Plusquellic said Team NEO doesn’t haven’t the experience of city and Summit County economic development officials.
“Team NEO is a marketing organization,” for the region, he said. “Now we’re trying to gear up and teach them how to do economic development from the government side.”
“The people who do the blocking and the tackling in economic development are here at the local level, and if we’ve needed outside expertise, they’ve provided it [under previous state administrations] out of Columbus.”
Waltermire said the regional JobsOhio offices would assume — and expand on — the job-creation and retention duties of the 12 regional economic development directors that were employed under previous governors’ administrations.
Waltermire said the region will benefit from the new setup, with the new JobsOhio regional staffers having easy access not only to Team NEO’s expertise, but also that of other organizations that work with Team NEO.
For operating expenses and the salaries of new staff, the six regional groups are to get $24 million over two years from the state’s Third Frontier economic program.
Plusquellic and others have expressed concerns about JobsOhio being a private nonprofit entity working with large sums of state money.
Waltermire echoed others involved with JobsOhio, saying it will work with a restructured Ohio Department of Development and that state approval would still be needed for various financial incentives, including the “workhorse” of such programs to businesses: the state job creation tax credit.
Plusquellic said his biggest concern when he spoke to Crain’s was the potential scrapping of the state’s contracts with international trade representatives.
Plusquellic said he was relieved to learn that a JobsOhio report recommends retaining trade offices in Europe and Israel. The mayor’s administration has aggressively pursued foreign investment, making business connections in Israel among other places. Three Israeli companies are currently in the city’s business incubator.
Officials with JobsOhio, the Ohio Department of Development and Team NEO will be in Independence on Tuesday to talk to area officials about Kasich’s jobs plan.
The meeting will run from 10 a.m. to noon at 5800 Rockside Woods Blvd.
Katie Byard can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3781.