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Job training wins experts’ backing as Columbus council mulls spending
Monday, January 5, 2012
Job training is the surest way to improve the local economy, two experts told the Columbus City Council today as it weighs how to spend money in 2012.
"Work-force development is a crying need for central Ohio," said economist Bill LaFayette, owner of the Columbus firm Regionomics.
LaFayette expects the eight-county metropolitan area to add 10,300 jobs in the coming year, an increase of 1.1 percent.
"I’m expecting (Columbus) to do better than every year in the 2000s except for 2007 — admittedly, that’s not saying much," LaFayette joked.
The council heard from LaFayette and Roberta Garber, executive director of Community Research Partners, today as it prepares to finalize the city’s 2012 budget by the end of the month.
Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman has proposed a $735.5 million budget, and improving financial projections mean the council could spend an additional $2.8 million without affecting his priorities.
The council also could revise the current spending plan, which would devote $10.95 million to economic development. Last year, the city spent nearly $11 million for that purpose.
Garber's group recently compared Columbus with 15 other U.S. metropolitan areas and found troubling economic signs, particularly on poverty, where Columbus ranked last.
Although Columbus ranked among the top five in areas such as people older than 25 with a bachelor’s degree, it also fell to the bottom four slots for unemployment and small-business births.
Councilwoman Priscilla R. Tyson said she recognizes the need to improve the economy.
"We certainly don’t want to be the last in anything … those are individuals we're talking about," she said.
Tyson ranked job growth, getting Columbus residents ready to work and addressing poverty as top priorities. "Work-force development is key to moving forward. Jobs are a No. 1 priority."
From 2000 to 2010, the number of Franklin County residents who were unemployed more than tripled, according to a Community Research Partners study. During the same period, the number of people in poverty grew by 75 percent in the county.
"Our community is growing, but certain groups have grown much faster than the current population growth," Garber said. "These subgroups may have greater human-service needs."
The presentation was not an attempt to project the next decade, Garber said, but rather to serve as a guideline for city officials as they finish the budget.
"We wanted to deconstruct what's really going on in terms of growth and what’s going on with that growth and how the city allocates its resources," she said.
Pat Holmes is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau.