Funding Delays for Successful, Job-Creating Third Frontier Program ‘Unacceptable’

Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish sent a letter to Gov. John Kasich today expressing his deep concern over ongoing funding delays in the bipartisan Ohio Third Frontier Program. Third Frontier was overwhelmingly approved by voters, and has a long -history of success in helping to create new jobs in technology and innovation, but has remained nearly idle for more than 18 months now. A copy of Leader Budish’s letter can be seen below.

The Honorable John R. Kasich
Office of the Governor
77 S. High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
 

Dear Gov. Kasich:

 I write to express my serious concern over the harm to economic development in Ohio being caused by prolonged funding delays in the Ohio Third Frontier Program.

 Ohio Third Frontier is a proven, job-creating economic development tool that was initially approved by the voters in 2005 and renewed and expanded in 2010.  It has a long history of bipartisan support and is considered by some to be a model economic development program envied by other states. 

As a passionate advocate for the program, I am very concerned about unwarranted delays in the funding of new projects under this program. At a time of serious economic challenges for Ohioans, I do not understand why there is not a greater sense of urgency to make these job-creation resources available more quickly. Moreover, the delays have created uncertainty and a loss of momentum, which jeopardizes the entire program.

I understand the desire for programmatic reviews, but after 18 months the Third Frontier remains stalled and over two-thirds of its funding capacity for Fiscal Year 2012 has been delayed.  Furthermore, these funding delays are with programs that the Ohio Third Frontier Commission and the Ohio Department of Development reviewed, analyzed and approved in October 2011.

The politicization of the Third Frontier approval process is also of great concern.  During the previous General Assembly there was bipartisan support to ensure that projects were awarded based on objective criteria applied by an independent review process. Yet, over the last year and against recommendations made by the Third Frontier independent reviewers, recommendations have been ignored or rejected.

The recent rejection of the LEEDCo project is a prime example of the potential perversion of the program. As you know, this project was preliminarily approved by an outside reviewer, the Ohio Department of Development, and business leaders who are representatives on the commission.  Following these approvals, the project was then denied by a majority of the commission, with little explanation or justification.

The inexplicable delays in this successful, bipartisan program have caused missed opportunities for job creation and have sent dangerous warning signs to investors, entrepreneurs and other job creators that this program is no longer a priority for Ohio. I hope that is not the case, but the slowed pace of funding and the recent denial of the LEEDCo project certainly indicate otherwise.

The Third Frontier was carefully designed to support entrepreneurs and research and development projects leading to new jobs in technology and innovation.  The financial returns to the state from all of this work were analyzed and reported by the Ohio Business Roundtable (attached) in preparation for the 2010 ballot initiative, so we can be confident that this program is making a significant impact.

It is my sincere hope that the funds will not be diverted to support other unrelated projects, possibly violating the letter and spirit of the Constitutional Amendment approved overwhelmingly by Ohioans. Any further delays in this successful, job creating program are simply unacceptable and only inhibit Ohio’s economic competitiveness.

Respectfully,

State Rep. Armond Budish,
Ohio House Minority Leader

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