Dear Elected Officials: Make Actions Match Words

Ohio is home to nearly 10,000 jobs for my members in the non-alcoholic beverage industry. Their collective power infuses Ohio with $6.4 billion in direct economic benefits. And in a state with leaders at all levels of government asking employers what they need to thrive in Ohio, the answer for our industry is surprisingly simple: state and local policymakers should make their actions match their words.

And when they don’t, we need them to work with agencies, boards and commissions under their purview to explore the reasons for the disconnect and ultimately fix that disconnect.

Our state leaders tout study committees looking at workforce development and retention issues. This is great, but why not also examine any state agency for impediments to these goals? For example, is it a hassle to get a CDL license in Ohio? Yep–in some areas of the state our members have 6-8 week wait times to get drivers scheduled for their required CDL skills tests. This is a broken connection between wanting more CDL drivers in Ohio and making that happen.

There are many other examples from other industries. There are ways to fix this and good people seem willing to work on the problems, but fixing a system requires a gut check on what makes sense in a world that moves at the speed of business. Let’s challenge our leaders to push beyond words.

The Ohio House now has a Business Caucus filled with well- meaning legislators. I hope their enthusiasm also translates into honest conversation with employers along the way. Most of us would remind them that predictability is essential to any business. There is a real opportunity for this group to provide a fresh perspective on pending legislation that will benefit business.

In another legislative idea to move from words to actions, state legislators are considering SB 1 which mandates a 30 percent reduction in state regulations. While folks can debate whether a mandatory percentage makes sense, I believe it is a strong signal that the Ohio General Assembly is trying to make state government’s regulatory climate match pro-business rhetoric. But let’s not stop there.

Administrative rules made at the state level are a logical starting place, but legislators also need to examine how local governments align with these laudable goals. For example, we have thoughtful work ongoing at Ohio EPA to issue grants for market development related to material recycling / reduction / reuse. The grants provide opportunities for public and private collaboration with market driven dynamics. But what about tone deaf municipal ordinances that tax or ban materials like single use plastics?

If legislators believe that sustainable programs require real world implementation then they will take a hard look at cities enacting short-sighted ordinances that impede business, accomplish no environmental gains and undermine real solutions to complex problems.

And in a stunning example of political rhetoric that is actively undermined by actions, I see local health departments using tax dollars to disparage food and beverage businesses in their cities while their local mayors and economic development directors work hard to urge these same businesses to add jobs and expand facilities. It is time for mayors and city councils to say “enough” to anti-business actions from their city agencies.

Anyone can cheer good intentions. And many of our elected officials are gifted speechmakers, diligent task force creators and well- meaning people. But the real magic happens when words become constructive actions that populate all aspects of how government works.

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