Congress, administration can offer a helping hand to small businesses

At ADI Wind in Sheffield, Ohio, workers showed me a revolutionary titanium gear box designed for wind turbines. It has the potential to advance the world’s wind production by reducing the cost and weight of a wind turbine and increasing energy output.

ADI Wind is a small, family run startup business. But it’s the kind of operation that embodies Ohio’s advantage. With tremendous research and manufacturing know-how, we are a state that knows how to make things.

In fact, Ohio is home to more renewable and advanced energy manufacturing projects than any other state in the nation, according to Conway Data.

Some folks think green clashes with blue, but green-collar jobs are blue-collar jobs. Most of the 8,000 components in a typical utility-sized wind turbine aren’t space-age widgets, they’re steel, glass, bolts, gear boxes — things Ohioans have been making for generations.

For 40 years, Cardinal Fastener in Cleveland has made bolts for various commercial needs. Now they’re supplying bolts to the wind market — with strong sales growth and a planned workforce expansion of up to 40 percent. 

The Federal Recovery and Reinvestment Act has, without question, created jobs in Ohio. The Council of State Governments found that Ohio created more green jobs from federal investments last year than any other state.

But in advanced energy and across the other leading sectors of Ohio’s economy, we are applying our core strategy to build a strong economic foundation for our middle class. 

First, we’re investing in our people. 

We’ve increased education funding, enrolled a record number of college students and earned the Education Commission of the States award for innovative education reform. 

Second, we’re utilizing our advantages. 

As a state, we’ve made a more than $300 million investment in advanced energy in recent years. A key component of that investment, the Ohio Third Frontier, was up for renewal in May. Ohio voters saw the effects — a burgeoning research economy in energy, biosciences, advanced materials and other areas, 55,000 jobs created, more than 600 companies launched or expanded — and voted for the Third Frontier in overwhelming numbers.

And third, we’re putting our policies firmly on the side of the future.

We’ve made it easier to do business here, establishing the lowest business taxes in the Midwest and regulatory reform that has cut down on red tape and tossed out hundreds of duplicative and unnecessary regulations.

When I took office, Ohio had no advanced energy requirements. So I proposed an energy reform bill that has created one of the nation’s most aggressive renewable energy policies and is now pushing our utilities to innovate. And in June, I signed a bill I had proposed earlier this year that eliminates a tax on the generation of advanced energy to help spur additional wind, solar, and other projects. 

Like most every other state, we have lost jobs, and our people have suffered at the hands of this global recession. But we’ve invested in Ohio’s future, and lately, we’re seeing encouraging signs. Ohio ranked third nationwide in new jobs created in April. And the figures for May show further job expansion.

But continuing this recovery and fully healing this economy will require federal action.

Across Ohio, I’ve spoken to countless small business people about the work they do. And they have told me time and again that lack of access to working capital is the biggest impediment they face in their efforts to compete and expand. In particular, we have small manufacturers who cannot afford to expand their companies and call back laid off workers, even as orders increase, because they lack capital necessary to fund equipment purchases and short-term operating costs. If they miss this window to expand and innovate, it could cost jobs for a generation.

So I’ve worked to build partnerships between the state and the private sector to get capital into the hands of job creators. Recently, Huntington Bank announced that in the first year of their commitment to inject more capital into Ohio’s economy they helped fund more than 2,000 Ohio businesses, providing more than $465 million in working capital.

But I believe Congress and the administration should work toward a federal commitment to increase the size of Small Business Administration loans and take other vital steps to ensure that our job creators have access to capital. I am pleased the Obama administration has now proposed a $30 billion fund that would be used to spur bank loans to small businesses. Now , we need to see that fund put into place to spur the growth of successful businesses.

While I was visiting ADI Wind, co-founder Mike Winiasz handed me one of the titanium components his company makes. With a smile he said, “We’re out of the Rust Belt.” Because titanium doesn’t rust. And neither does Ohio.