SALEM - Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor heard concerns from local business leaders Monday about infrastructure needed for the shale boom, holes in the industrial skilled workforce, health insurance changes and changes needed in education and state agencies.
Some of the concerns she's heard before during roundtables in other communities, but points raised about the incomplete U.S. Route 30 and 62 projects and the need for major roads to accommodate the coming shale industry didn't go unnoticed.
"Your point is very valid," Taylor said.
Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor speaks during a roundtable event attended by 15 business leaders Monday afternoon at the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce building. Seated next to Taylor were Jock Buta, owner of Butech-Bliss Inc., left, and David Mollenkopf, owner of Crabb Insurance Agency and legislative affairs chairman for the chamber. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)
Larry Kosiba, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, told her that infrastructure is one of the key parts of preparing for the shale gas boom.
He asked if the state could go back to the Route 30 and 62 projects and look at the amount of traffic, especially with Chesapeake talking about building a plant near Kensington. Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Audrey Null said an estimated 653 trucks a day travel on State Street through downtown Salem now.
Councilman Dave Nestic, who attended the roundtable as owner of NezTech Corporation, said it's not just roads that are going to be impacted by the expected increase in traffic. He said the vibrations from the truck traffic are crumbling the historic buildings downtown.
Rick Lutsch, a partner in Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer CPAs, told her about the bypass that begins and ends nowhere, the long number of years the Route 30 and 62 projects have been staying at the same level on the allocation ladder and asked if the projects could move up.
Taylor said she planned to take the issue back to the governor's office and talk with the Ohio Department of Transportation. As the person leading CSI Ohio: the Common Sense Initiative, she said their goal was to get rid of some of the red tape and bureaucracy getting in the way of job creation.
"We're trying to reduce the burdens and reduce the cost of complying with regulations," she said.
Jon Vollnogle, owner of Howells & Baird Inc., said streamlining the environmental review process road projects must go through could be helpful, noting that projects get stuck. His fear was that even if the area got approval for some projects to address increased traffic from the shale boom, the boom would be over by the time the environmental review was finished.
Taylor said the state is asking every agency to look at what they do to streamline processes and consider the effects of any rule changes on businesses and residents. If the shale boom is as successful as expected, she said it will add revenue to all of government. She also said there are ongoing discussions on how to deal with infrastructure issues.
John Biastro, Human Resources Director at Fresh Mark, and Jock Buta owner of Butech-Bliss Inc., both talked about the lack of skilled labor for jobs. David Hughes, owner of Specialty Fab Inc., said "one of our biggest stumbling blocks in Ohio is education."
Consumers Bank CEO/President Ralph Lober said students are focused on studying for state tests and that doesn't help manufacturers.
Taylor said the state is working with schools on curriculum and getting career and technical training to students earlier. She said they're getting two-year schools to coordinate with local employers. She said part of it has to be a recognition that not all kids are going to college. The way of thinking has to shift because skilled labor is so important and so needed.
On the insurance front, she praised Kent State University for putting together a curriculum around insurance, noting there will be a massive need in the future. She said it's a good example of being proactive.
With the federal health care reform coming, she said there's still a lot of uncertainty on how to comply with the bill.
The Salem Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the roundtable event, with Null explaining that providing information on legislative affairs is one of the important aspects of the chamber.
"Keeping the business community informed is important," she said.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org