CANTON — Gov. Mike DeWine thinks the National First Ladies’ Library is an attraction that could help put Canton on the map.

Not only is the library a tribute to the late Ralph and Mary Regula, whom DeWine described as close friends, but it’s also one example of the many treasures Ohio has.

“I think it has the great potential of what helps draw people to Canton,” DeWine said. “I’m very optimistic about the ability of Canton to become a destination place.”

DeWine on Thursday gave the keynote speech at the 105th annual dinner for the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce held at Memorial Civic Center.

The governor, who is in his first year in office, offered a far-reaching overview of his priorities, including his vision for strengthening the workforce and addressing mental health problems and drug addiction.

His comments were about statewide initiatives, but he acknowledged many of the problems seen across the state also are visible in Stark County.

Here’s what Dewine had to say:

On tourism in Canton:

The development planned for Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village is “very exciting,” DeWine said. He also mentioned the NFL Centennial Celebration, which is scheduled for September 2020, saying, “The eyes of the world are going to be on Canton.”

But tourism destinations usually need multiple attractions to lure visitors, he said, and he pointed to the National First Ladies’ Library.

The library has some financial needs, and if the state is able to fill them, the attraction will be taken to “the next level.”

“We’ll see what we can do,” DeWine said.

In general, Ohio plays the role of humble Midwesterner, too, well and doesn’t talk about its assets enough.

“We’ve got to be out there promoting a lot, and that’s part of what I think my job is,” DeWine said.

On workforce development:

Investing in Ohio’s human capital and filling 21st-century jobs is probably the state’s most important mission, DeWine said.

In Stark County and across Ohio, there are jobs sitting unfilled, while people who don’t have the right skills sets for the available jobs remain unemployed.

Some of the work involves changing the conversation about careers and the options that are available for making a living.

“Every child does not have to go to college,” he said.

On children and families:

The future of the state will be decided, in part, by children who are “at the margins,” those who might succeed but also might not.

DeWine’s proposed budget funnels money to programs that focus on infants to 5-year-olds.

He mentioned Ohio’s infant mortality rate and the racial disparity in the figures, calling the numbers shocking. (Statewide data released last year showed that black babies were dying at more than double the rate of white babies, with 13.46 deaths for every 1,000 live births from 2013 to 2015. )

“These are things that can be corrected,” he said.

DeWine talked about teachers, saying he knows they face the challenge of working with students who aren’t prepared to learn because they’re hungry or have trauma symptoms. DeWine plans to put additional funding toward wraparound services that address the barriers that keep students from thriving.

He also spoke about the mental health problems plaguing young children, which have led to suicide.

“This community certainly has seen that,” DeWine said, “but it’s not unique here. We’re seeing it throughout the state of Ohio.”

(A report about Stark County released this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 5% of students in grades 7 through 12 had attempted suicide at least once during last school year.)

On drug addiction:

DeWine said he’s not giving up on law enforcement, but the biggest step the state can take to reduce drug addiction is to prioritize education and prevention. In Ohio, school curriculum will include training designed to keep kids from choosing the path of addiction, he said.

(Last year in Stark County, 75 people died of accidental drug overdoses, according to data from the Stark County Coroner’s Office.)

On the role of government:

"We should be an administration that listens,” DeWine said.

Government ought to keep families strong and allow businesses to grow, he said, not mess things up with higher taxes and more regulations.

Like he did during his State of the State speech last month, DeWine quoted the Bible, saying there’s a time and place for everything.

Now is the time to invest in Ohio’s people.

“You cannot have economic development without human development,” he said.

 

Reach Alison at 330-580-8312 or alison.matas@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @amatasREP