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Investing in Ohio a key to our future

Major crises are powerfully transformative events. After an extremely challenging time in Ohio brought on by the global coronavirus pandemic, we have an opportunity this year to make the kinds of investments that will bring renewal and recovery across the state.

The budget I unveiled last month, and sent to the Ohio General Assembly, would invest in Ohio’s people, businesses, and communities with the goal of our state emerging even stronger from the pandemic.

As part of our budget and other stand-alone bills, we have created the “Investing in Ohio Initiative,” which calls for strategic investments of $1 billion in our economy to:

— Support Ohio’s small businesses;

— Strengthen Ohio’s communities;

— Grow Ohio’s skilled workforce;

— Increase broadband connectivity;

— and tell Ohio’s story.

A successful economic recovery must start with our small businesses. The Investing in Ohio Initiative would provide nearly $500 million in relief to small businesses in the entertainment and hospitality industries, including bars and restaurants, which were hit especially hard by the pandemic.

It would assist 15,000 small businesses by providing $10,000 grants to the qualified applicants who have yet to receive assistance through the state’s share of the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Our proposed investment also includes $20 million specifically for businesses that started in 2020, as many of them were excluded from receiving previous financial assistance.

For hotels and others in the lodging industry, our budget would provide grants of up to $30,000 to support those who lost business. Another set of grants would provide relief to entertainment venues, such as movie theaters, bowling alleys, trampoline parks and privately-owned museums.

Ohio’s communities are drivers of economic growth, but they have also been hurt by the pandemic. The Investing in Ohio Initiative would make a targeted investment of nearly $500 million in community infrastructure projects.

This funding would help local municipalities get important projects across the finish line. For example, communities could use the money to expand access to clean drinking water, build or improve local roads or clean up blighted properties.

The Investing in Ohio Initiative also includes a $70 million investment to upskill Ohio’s workforce. This funding would be used to ensure that businesses have access to the talent needed to be successful, while providing training to Ohioans who are looking to acquire in-demand, tech-focused credentials. In communities where broadband connectivity is lacking, the Investing in Ohio Initiative would help bridge the digital divide by providing $250 million to help expand networks to underserved areas.

Across the country, the pandemic has prompted people to seek balance and strive for a better quality of life. Ohio has those desirable elements — and after the pandemic proved that people can work anywhere, we want to convince them to live and work here! It is time to set aside our Midwestern manners and take the opportunity to be bold. We need to tell people what we already know. Ohio is the best place to find your future — a family, a career, an education, and a place to call home.

The Investing in Ohio Initiative would provide $50 million to tell a national audience about Ohio’s excellent career opportunities, top-tier colleges and universities, amazing getaways and inviting communities.

While COVID-19 has tested and challenged Ohio at every level, our state can emerge stronger. With the right investments, our businesses, communities and workforce can experience renewal and recovery as we plant the seeds for growth and position Ohio for a bright future.

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