Employers, but Not Energy Industry, Meet Incentive Goals

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The annual meeting of the Tax Incentive Review Council lasted 17 minutes Monday, its members satisfied that employers in the program, except those in the oil and gas industry, are meeting or have surpassed their job-creation goals.

The chairman of the council, Mahoning County Auditor Ralph Meacham, accepted T. Sharon Woodberry’s 34-page report for 2015 that reviewed 28 companies with a physical presence in Youngstown.

Woodberry is Youngstown director of community planning and economic development. Packer Thomas, a public accounting firm in Canfield, collected the data in the report Woodberry submitted.

All 28 employers obtained some sort of tax incentive or other inducement through the Youngstown Enterprise Zone Program to conduct their business or expand in Youngstown in return for hiring more employees.

In 2014, Woodberry reported, the companies collectively employed 1,261. Last year that number fell to 1,156. Subtract the companies in the energy–related sector, such as Exterran Energy Solutions Inc., and the number has increased.

The sums employers have invested in their physical plants is $115.89 million, well above the $71.23 million they committed to investing, she said.

Exterran, in the Ohio Works Industrial Park, received various incentives to build its 60,000-square-foot plant on Salt Springs Road with the promise of one day employing 103.

When it closed March 31, saying it has every intention of reopening when the energy sector recovers, 68 lost their jobs.

Exterran told Woodberry it intends to return when “market conditions” improve, she reported. So the council agreed to “continue the Exterran incentives” rather than seek to recover them.

Some companies have fulfilled their obligations to create jobs and were removed from the list while others are working toward fulfilling their agreements that expire this year, next year, 2018, 2019 or 2020, and will be monitored.

For example, Coronado Steel Co. Inc., has hired two of the four it promised by Nov. 21, 2018. Gulu Electrical Contractors Inc. has hired two of the 18 it said it would add to its workforce by Oct. 28, 2020.

The issue of creating and maintaining a database to furnish employers with workers with the requisite skills was briefly reviewed. Jonathan Bentley, Youngstown director of human resources, reported he has an agreement in place with Eastern Gateway Community College to enter its graduates with the certificates they earn in the database with OhioMeansJobs. He is working with Youngstown State University to add its graduates and their qualifications.

A challenge is the incentives awarded engineering companies in return for job creation. “Engineering companies have the stiffest requirements,” he said, for candidates with the certificates they need.

Companies are making efforts to hire from the database, Bert Cene, director of the Mahoning County office of OhioMeansJobs said, but only one company was able to use a referral.

The only hitch in the meeting occurred at the beginning when Meacham told two members of the city school board, Jerome Williams and Corrine Sanderson, that they could sit and participate but not vote. Board President Brenda Kimble sent Williams. The new CEO of the school system, Krish Mohip, sent Sanderson.

Meacham explained that he had consulted county prosecutor Paul Gains and city Law Director Martin Hume because the bylaws of the tax incentive review council state that the board of education shall appoint one member. But the powers accorded the schools CEO supersedes the school board’s authority and Mohip chose Sanderson.

Hume sat in on the meeting.

A call to board offices yesterday afternoon found that Mohip agreed that Williams should sit on the council.

Pictured above: Exterran plant in Youngstown.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.