April 18, 2023
Mobility Options and Advocacy Stressed as Workforce Essentials
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce joined with local officials to discuss tips for advocacy, local needs, and how best to effectively lobby for transportation funding. The first annual Mobility Management Conference, hosted by Knox County Mobility Management in Mount Vernon, brought together Mobility Managers and transit officials from across the state.

With the pandemic in the rearview mirror, and with 20,000 future jobs announced just in 2022 as coming to Ohio over the next decade, public transit and other mobility options for Ohioans to access work, education, commerce and medical services are critical. According to the Federal Transit Administration, the rising costs of cars and gas are causing workers to spend as much as 37% of their income on commuting.

Along with Knox County Commissioner Bill Pursel and Knox Public Health Commissioner Zach Green, OCC Senior Vice President Rick Carfagna discussed unmet needs in counties and how to navigate local and state governments and collaborating agencies to finds solutions for gaps in service. Carfagna stressed the need to develop relationships early and “without an ask”, something particularly important with term limits resulting in widespread legislative turnover. With 63 public transit agencies operating in Ohio, most of which serve rural and suburban counties, many state officials aren’t immediately aware of how people in their own districts – far from metropolitan centers – are served by transit programs.

In addition to public transit, many private mobility companies are helping to fill needs where reliable transportation is lacking. SHARE Mobility, another presenter at the Mobility Management Conference, uses proprietary routing software and a trusted network of fleet operators to provide reliable and efficient transportation operations for companies and their employees. These types of operations complement public transit, while allowing employers to provide commuter benefits as an employment tool. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce is helping advocate for a budget amendment to create a commuter benefits tax credit to financially encourage these types of employee benefits. The OCC agrees that these arrangements such as these result in improved access to jobs, reduction in roadway costs, and increased buying power for workers.
Ohio Chamber Touts Utility-Scale Solar Energy in Madison County
Ohio Chamber Senior Vice President Rick Carfagna joined an assortment of speakers last week at a press conference for the Oak Run solar project. The proposed utility-scale solar facility, to be constructed by OCC member Savion, represents nearly $1.1 billion in private investment and would produce 800MW of electricity and 300MW of proposed battery storage. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce supports approval and construction of this project, as it will enable Ohio businesses and consumers to have greater choices for their energy needs and ensure safe, reliable and affordable energy options here in the Buckeye State.

The domestic energy production under the Oak Run project would translate into outputs of over $154 million and earnings of over $85 million – both during construction and long-term – for Madison County. The State of Ohio also will see considerable revenues from Oak Run, starting with outputs of over $429.3 million and earnings of over $212.3 million during construction and long-term. Additional economic opportunity for the county and region will be realized by the project yielding an annual minimum of $7.2 million for all taxing districts. Finally, with a requirement to utilize 80% in-state labor throughout project construction and installation, estimates call for over 1,487 Madison County jobs and over 3,033 jobs for Ohioans to be generated during construction.

For nearly 25 years, Ohio has been an electric deregulated state which has yielded numerous energy options and cost-saving plans to residential and commercial customers. Under deregulation, Carfagna noted, electric utilities are forbidden from generating electricity and have been divesting or closing their power plant assets over time. All new energy generation being constructed has been through private investment, and typically in the realm of natural gas plants or through renewable sources. These types of private investments in our rural communities will drive Ohio’s energy independence, provide stronger national security, and help feed the energy needs of Ohio’s manufacturing renaissance.

Savion’s proposal comes at a key time for Ohio’s economy as we enter into a new manufacturing renaissance, with nearly 20,000 future jobs in combined projects announced in 2022. Given that Ohio presently imports 25% of its electricity needs, new baseload and peak generation will be critical. Oak Creek’s proposed 800MW will help provide more electricity for everyday operations, while the 300MW of proposed battery storage will allow for infusion of electricity during peak periods such as evenings or during hot summer or cold winter months. The construction of these facilities contributes to greater grid resiliency, a key recommendation of the Chamber’s Blueprint for Ohio's Economic Future.