February 28, 2023
Stivers Testifies in Favor of Veteran-Owned Business Legislation
Ohio Chamber President & CEO Steve Stivers provided testimony last week in support of Senate Bill 12 (R-Mingo Junction), legislation that makes veteran-owned businesses eligible for contract purchase set-asides by state agencies. Stivers’ remarks to the Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee drew upon his own military experience while also recognizing veterans as a category of hidden workers that Ohio should aspire to better integrate into our workforce.

Senate Bill 12 builds upon present 15% set-aside under Ohio law by public entities for minority business enterprises. SB 12 would create a separate 5% set-aside of state purchasing contracts for competition among veteran-owned business enterprises.

The Ohio Chamber’s Blueprint for Ohio’s Economic Future specifically recommends reducing barriers to employment by supporting increased recruitment and retention of veterans. SB 12 aligns with the Chamber’s long-term policy vision for the state and is an important step towards recognizing and elevating our veterans, particularly those who are entrepreneurs and creating Ohio-based job opportunities.
BWC Approves 8% Cut in Workers’ Compensation Premiums
On Friday, the BWC Board of Directors unanimously approved an 8% reduction in private employer workers’ compensation premiums for fiscal year 2024. The move is projected to save 257,000 private employers in Ohio more than $90 million next year and it marks the sixth consecutive year of private employer rate cuts. 

The continued rate cuts are possible due to shifts in the types of jobs being performed, modern manufacturing techniques, and employer investments in workplace safety. These factors have resulted in a decline in the number of injuries and severity of injuries which has enabled the BWC to collect fewer employer dollars to cover the cost of claims. 

In fact, according to the BWC, average rates for private employer premiums are at a 60 year low.

If you are an employer in Ohio looking to save more money on your workers’ compensation premiums, you can join one of the Ohio Chamber’s group rating programs. These programs are available to employers of any size and may save you more than 50% on workers’ compensation costs. You can find out more about these programs by reaching out to Candace Frank at CFrank@ohiochamber.com.
Ohio Small Business Council Convenes, Discusses Education & Workforce
The Ohio Chamber’s Small Business Council convened last week, with members receiving a debriefing by State Senator Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) on the disconnect between Ohio’s education system and the state’s workforce needs. Reineke is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1, priority legislation for both Senate Leadership and the Ohio Chamber, which would restructure both the Ohio Department of Education and State Board of Education to provide stronger emphasis on workforce skills and career readiness.  

Reineke is a business partner in Reineke Family Dealerships, a three-generation family business that has grown to include 10 auto dealerships and over 400 full and part time employees. He discussed with the Council the assorted workforce challenges his companies face, as well as assorted measures being contemplated by state policymakers.  

Despite not initially having an interest in education policy, Reineke said many of the issues he’s working on keep tracing back to students not being prepared at the K-12 level for post-secondary options. As of fall 2019, just under 24% of students entering state public colleges or universities enrolled in remedial courses, an improvement from 41% in 2012 but still illustrating preparedness issues among high school graduates. As Reineke explained, Ohio must do a better job of equipping its youth with the skill sets necessary for jobs that have yet to be invented in the coming decade. This includes exposing students at earlier ages to all of the post-secondary options available, including career tech and skilled trades. Raising Ohio’s attainment rate of 49.5%, 31st in the country and below the national average of 51.3%, will involve more exposure to all job training pathways, including short-term certificates, college degrees, and industry-recognized credentials.
Housing Summit Recap
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce held its first Summit on Housing. The room was at capacity and the audience heard from four panels on various aspects of the housing issue facing Ohio. Before the panels began, US Congressman Warren Davidson, chair of the subcommittee for Housing and Insurance, presented the group with a federal update and goals for the subcommittee during this session of Congress.

The four panels then spoke about the current housing crisis facing Ohio. As the Ohio Chamber of Commerce pointed out in its Blueprint for Ohio’s Economic Future, Ohio has a shortage of over 200,000 housing units. The first panel focused on the legislative work underway in the 135th General Assembly and a recap of housing initiatives that passed in the 134th General Assembly. The audience then heard about programs available to develop more housing units into the market; obstacles facing developers of housing; and a panel on creative solutions to add housing to local markets. The Chamber plans to stay engaged with a new Housing Task Force inside the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
Ohio Chamber Hosts Canadian Delegation
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce was proud to host Colin Bird, Consul General of Canada, and a delegation of Canadian trade officials last week over lunch at the Chamber’s offices. The event was part of “Canada Week in Ohio”, celebrating the close economic, cultural, and security relationship between Canada and Ohio. Ontario trade and investment officials shared perspectives about varying trade challenges across Ohio, Michigan and Illinois while Chamber member The Ford Motor Company provided updates on its $1.5 billion investment to build commercial electric vehicles in Lorain County with 1,800 new jobs.

Consul General Bird emphasized the critical importance of preserving Line 5 to ensure industry supply chains, fuel stability, and economic security for both Canada and Great Lakes states. Line 5, a pipeline owned by Enbridge and extending for 645 miles across the state of Michigan, transports up to 540,000 barrels - or 22.68 million gallons - per day of light crude oil and natural gas liquids, some of which are refined in Toledo facilities. Michigan has sought to decommission a portion of Line 5 due to environmental concerns, while the Ohio House and Senate have passed resolutions urging Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to keep Line 5 operational and Governor DeWine has sent a similar plea to President Biden. According to the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), Ohio could lose up to $13.7 billion in economic activity, $147.9 million in state revenue, and over 20,000 jobs from the shutdown of the Line 5 pipeline.

The Ohio Chamber pledged to work closely with the Consulate General’s office, as well as the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, on shared issues of importance and potential convening events in Northwest Ohio.
Energy Update
The Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) held a hearing to consider amending EV charging standards in the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). PURPA is a federal Act and the PUCO is considering this standard in light of the recent enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The Ohio Chamber of Commerce intervened in the matter and is watching the developments in the case. Several of our member companies have provided comments. The PUCO is now free to make an order in this case or an order under its general IIJA docket, case no. 22-755-AU-COI.