State Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) has taken to Facebook to express his concerns with JobsOhio, a private economic development entity that he says has “been a failure” for Southeast Ohio.
Edwards posted his first statement about JobsOhio on August 24, and has made several more statements since then. His concerns with the group appear to be three-fold: a lack of transparency, bloated salaries among its top officials, and a failure to create job growth in Southeast Ohio.
“JobsOhio is a private nonprofit economic development arm for the State of Ohio. In the early years of the Kasich administration, he helped facilitate a contract between this new entity and the state, for them to buy the rights to the state liquor sales. This is the money they use for economic development. Even though they get state money and the Governor appoints their board, none of their records are open to the public because they are considered a private entity,” Edwards said in his first post.
Edwards explained that JobsOhio has six regional partners around the state. In Southeast Ohio, that regional partner is the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth, called APEG for short.
“They are also considered a private nonprofit so none of their information is public either,” Edwards said. “We don’t know how much the people at these organizations work, how much they make, or really anything about them.”
He later revealed that JobsOhio, previously under the direction of Mike Jacoby, invested $550,000 in 2018 to help two businesses in Ohio’s 94th District, which Edwards represents. That same year, Jacoby received a $621,332 salary, or $71,332 more than the total sum invested in Southeast Ohio.
JobsOhio’s new president, J.P. Nauseef, will receive a base salary of $350,000, but that doesn’t include health-care, 401K contributions, or performance bonuses. His salary, along with those of 16 other JobsOhio employees, was released in May after Gov. Mike DeWine called for more transparency in the agency.
Edwards said in another post that JobsOhio is broken down into six regions across the state, the largest of which is Southeast Ohio, which has 25 counties.
“You may ask why Western Ohio deserves their own region. JobsOhio has always had powerful people around it that are from the Dayton area. This is a way for them to filter a ton of money to Dayton without Cincinnati getting in the way. Currently J.P. Nauseef, the new president of JobsOhio, is from Dayton,” Edwards wrote on Facebook.
Edwards also claimed that the Appalachian Region, overseen by APEG, had 412,900 jobs in 2011 when JobsOhio was created.
“In 2018, we had 411,800. So in seven years we lost 1,100 jobs but I believe their executives get raises every year. These numbers alone show me that JobsOhio and APEG have been a failure,” Edwards said.
The state representative said in another post that the number of projects funded in the 25 Appalachian counties by JobsOhio and APEG was less than five percent.
“Also, when you look at the percentage of money invested into our region, the 25 poorest counties got just over $5 million out of $140 million. That is around 3.7 percent. Shows what they think of us,” he added.
He also noted that JobsOhio Vice President and Head of Economic Development Dana Saucier, who also serves on the board of APEG, was paid $353,099 in 2018.
“One would think having a person this high up serve on our board would drastically help our businesses secure funding. It has not,” Edwards said. “Shouldn’t we have more of an Appalachian presence on both the JobsOhio board and the APEG board? It surely doesn’t seem like they understand us.”
Edwards later claimed that JobsOhio and APEG employees were “directed not to communicate” with him.
“I was wondering why I made 14 calls today to the people listed below. Not one answered me and not one was returned,” Edwards. “Are you that mad I’m telling the truth?”
Edwards has continued to post information about JobsOhio on his Facebook page since his initial August 24 post and said that Nauseef “finally” returned his calls and asked to setup a conference call.
“After telling him I only wanted to do a face-to-face meeting and I wanted him to be there, he told me it would be a long time before that meeting could get setup because of his schedule,” Edwards said.
In one of his more recent posts, Edwards claimed that JobsOhio and APEG have created more jobs within their own agencies than they have for the Athens, Meigs, Washington and Vinton counties combined.
“I sure hope an operation the size of JobsOhio that has a $13 million payroll will reach out to me soon to discuss how we can change things,” Edwards continued.
All of his posts can be viewed on his Facebook page here.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to email@example.com.
Background Photo “Ohio House Floor” by Joshua Rothaas. CC BY 2.0.