May 17, 2016
Jason Kester has been trying to do that every day for more than three years.
As executive director of the Southern Ohio Port Authority, Kester is charged with spurring economic development in Scioto County, Ohio. The county, which sits just across the Ohio River from Kentucky, was a thriving manufacturing hub decades ago, but its industries and many of its remaining factories are mere shells of their former selves. The area lost thousands of jobs -- and residents -- as companies closed or moved operations overseas. Businesses continue to downsize, leaving Scioto County with a 8.8% unemployment rate.
Kester is not deterred. He, along with his counterparts in three neighboring counties, are actively recruiting companies by showcasing their central location, experienced workforce, low tax burden and proximity to railroads, highways and the river. They prominently point out on their joint website that the cost of living and median wages are below both Ohio and national rates.
Also, they are trying to grow local and regional manufacturers and companies that are already familiar with the area. "They are already married to us. They know what's going on," Kester said. "It's easier to work with them."
Kester says he'd rather attract 20 businesses employing 50 people each than a single large manufacturer with 1,000 workers. That way, if one shuts down, it's not crippling to the local economy.
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