Saturday, January 30, 2010

(Editorial) Our Opinion: Ohio Third Frontier program a winner

A college professor once overheard a graduating senior fretting about the lack of jobs in the real world.

“How many jobs are you planning to have?” he asked. “All you need is one.”

That simple point remains true today, even if it doesn’t carry the same power it once did with our national, state and local unemployment rates hovering around 10 percent.

Mansfield and Richland County rank near the top of the list of Ohio communities hit hardest by job losses.

More people lost their jobs last month, bringing the current jobless rate to 13 percent of the work force out of work.

Not only is it far more difficult to find one job, it’s also quite possible one job won’t pay every bill or provide health insurance.

That’s why President Obama mentioned jobs an astounding 29 times in his State of the Union address, while fellow Democrat and Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland focused almost exclusively on jobs in his State of the State address.

They know voter perception of who’s creating jobs will go a long way to deciding who holds political jobs after the mid-term Congressional and gubernatorial elections in November.

Thus, the age-old debate over creating jobs through government programs and incentives versus lowering taxes and regulation continues.

This can be seen in the current stalemate in the Ohio General Assembly over extending Ohio’s Third Frontier program. It provides capital to “build world-class research programs, nurture early-stage companies, and foster technology development that makes existing industries more productive ... .”

Independent research shows the eight-year-old program has created 41,000 jobs worth $2.4 billion in wages and benefits, providing taxpayers with a very impressive 10-to-1 return on their investment.

Voters need to extend the program, but lawmakers are squabbling over money as they prepare a May ballot issue, with the Senate approving $500 million and the House approving $950 million in a bipartisan vote. Given the results to date, why the Senate wants to reduce funding makes little sense.

Strickland, who is fighting to continue a program proposed by former Republican Gov. Bob Taft, wants Ohio to be a leader in the advanced energy sector, claiming the state was first in 2009 for creating new green jobs and renewable energy projects. He also suggests Ohio may be turning a corner, thanks to 2005 tax reforms that make Ohio’s business taxes the lowest in the Midwest. And he notes Ohio is the only state to grow exports every year since 1998.

In this sense, we believe Strickland might be correct, despite the pain and despair so many feel today. The state has made many wise moves in recent years to address the jobs issue on many fronts, realizing that any one program or concept carries a small punch.

Likewise, in a county such as ours where so much emphasis has been placed on manufacturing, the idea of bringing more diversity to our economic mix in the way of higher technology should be welcomed.

Attracting new jobs requires good communities with trained workers and a solid business environment, the complete package of opportunities for success. Even that’s not enough every time any more with technology and trade issues dominating the global economy.

Thus, it would seem quite wise for the Ohio General Assembly to keep the state’s momentum going by renewing the Third Frontier at its existing funding levels. After all, voters in need of jobs get the final say.

From the editor: The best letters are written by real people

BY David Kennard
News Journal

A few weeks ago, the News Journal received a letter to the editor written by a woman who claimed to live in Mansfield.

It was a nice letter heaping praise upon President Obama. Nothing too out of the ordinary.

Like we do with all letters, we called the woman to confirm that she was the author. Everything checked out and the letter ran on the opinion page, where all letters run.

A few days later we saw the same letter begin to pop up in papers around the country, all written by the same woman. Problem was, she claimed to have a home in each area where her letter ran.

We were duped.

Besides providing news coverage of the local community, newspapers have historically been a place to foster conversation and develop public opinion and debate.

We take that role seriously, and letters to the editor are welcome in the News Journal.

We enjoy giving a voice to our readers. And we run nearly all the letters we receive.

Those that don’t make print are rejected for any number of reasons — like if the letter is from an anonymous writer.

When a letter to the editor arrives in the newsroom, my staff immediately logs it in, places it in a folder and carries the folder to my desk for review.

I spend a few minutes each day reading letters that have come in and giving them a thumbs up for publication.

The letter then goes to a clerk who checks it for egregious errors and other criteria, such as length.

Letters longer than 350 words are always sent back to the author for editing. To give you an idea of length, this column is about 415 words.

Regarding the fake letter to the editor, we eventually found out the woman writer was really a 51-year-old man from Frazier Park, Calif. What is the saying? “Fool me once?”

While we love to get letters, we also love to know who is sending them to us. My thinking is that if you really value your opinion, you ought to let others know who you are.

David Kennard is the managing editor of the Mansfield News Journal. You can contact him at 419-521-7204.