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Bill aims to make JobsOhio records public

Agency charged with Ohio job creation currently not subject to open records law
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Posted at 3:18 PM, Dec 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-12 18:31:24-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — More than ten years after JobsOhio was created as a nonprofit to replace the state agency that was charged with business and economic development, one lawmaker hopes to change the way JobsOhio operates, by requiring their records abide by public records laws.

Because JobsOhio is a nonprofit and not directly funded by taxpayers or a state agency, it is not required to make its records public and show Ohioans how it is specifically spending money.

That includes more than just finalized deals and dollar signs, but also its strategies, communications and financials.

House Bill 654 would put JobsOhio on the same playing field as state agencies, classifying "records kept" as “public records.”

"The people need to know where their money has gone and where it continues to come back to them," Rep. Catherine D. Ingram (District 32) said. "If I can get an open records request through a school district or from any other part of Ohio functioning, then I should be able to do that for JobsOhio."

RELATED: Agency charged with Ohio job creation not subject to open records law

While JobsOhio is not funded directly by taxpayers, Ohioans do pay for it through liquor profits, which end up at JobsOhio Beverage System (JOBS). It’s an arrangement that’s been in place since 2012.

Ingram points to the $609 million reported in JobsOhio’s vault as reason enough for this kind of oversight.

"I think that the work that is being done is probably as comprehensive as I've ever seen it in economic development and I want to make sure that we continue with that inclusion and the economic development gets to everybody," she said. "Appalachia, urban, suburban and all around in the state of Ohio."

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In 2021, JobsOhio said it helped create 29,000 new jobs in the Buckeye State.

In a statement to News 5, a spokesperson with JobsOhio said they had no direct comment for this legislation, however they did point to repeated recognition of the highest level of transparency by GuideStar, which rates the nation's nonprofit agencies.

Additionally, a spokesperson with JobsOhio said individuals can view broad financials on its website.

Last year, J.P. Nauseef, JobsOhio's president and CEO, spoke with former News 5 Chief Investigator Ron Regan and argued there “has never been a better time to do business in Ohio” and stands by its record as “absolutely successful.”

With regard to questions about transparency, Nauseef said at the time, "We want to make sure that we use our status as a private entity not to have a veil of secrecy, but to make sure Ohio receives the benefit of a competitive advantage.”

J.P. Nauseef
J.P. Nauseef, JobsOhio President and CEO

“They share very sensitive information,” says Nauseef, "and those companies need to have confidence that that information will stay private—they don’t want to share that information with their competitors or the financial markets until they’re ready to share it.”

JobsOhio’s most recent annual report reveals it has $609 million in the bank, but exact details of how it's spent remain shielded.

That bill held its first hearing in the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee on Nov. 29, however it's not clear what's next for the bill.

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