Q. What changes are taking place in Ohio?
A. The new leadership in Ohio - led by Governor Ted Strickland and Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher - is driving the aggressive Turnaround Ohio Plan. I have been here for 10 years, and saw the incoming and the outgoing administrations work really well together, as early as on Election Night. We have implemented a series of principles, ideas and programs to take Ohio's economy forward.
Q. What is the makeup of the economy?
A. Our diverse economy has a concentration in automaking. As an example of foreign investments, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, and Honda all have assembly plants in Ohio. Honda has a huge presence here. We have four manufacturing plants, support facilities, Honda Transmission Manufacturing, Honda R&D Ohio Center, Honda Trading, and an American Honda Service Parts and Training Center, plus a soybean processing plant, adding up to a work force of 16,000 people.
We are also active in biosciences, polymers, financial services, and power propulsion for engines. Since we are within 60 percent of the U.S. population, transportation/logistics continues to thrive. In June, Avon named Zanesville as the location for a new $117 million distribution center that will employ approximately 500 people and will have the capacity to ship 50 percent of Avon's U.S. sales volume when fully operational. Also, a 600,000-square-foot distribution center for Payless ShoeSource, Inc. will be located in Brookville, 15 miles west of Dayton, creating 300 jobs.
Diversity is a great thing. We have our big cities represented by the three Cs - Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland - and see in the Corn Belt the birth and maturation of the ethanol industry, which has been moving to the east and has come to Ohio in a big way. Currently, we have 25 ethanol projects with five under construction.
In alternative fuels, UltraCell Corporation, a producer of reformed methanol fuel cells (RMFCs) for mobile power, selected a new facility for fuel cell production at the Dayton International Airport, a free trade zone. UltraCell's commitment represents a major manufacturing milestone and the promise of hundreds of manufacturing jobs.
We have 775 bioscience entities in Ohio. Life sciences employs 586,288 people with a payroll of $22 billion and $52 billion in economic output.
Q. Is foreign direct investment expanding as well?
A. We have the second-highest number of Japanese firms [in the country]. We are attracting European and Canadian firms as well as working on deals with companies from the more non-traditional Russian and Indian firms. There are 1,063 international companies operating in Ohio, employing 181,200 people. We have 11 international trade offices and are beginning the process of establishing two new international trade offices in Australia and India, as well as a branch office in Beijing, China, to complement our trade activities at our existing Hong Kong and Shanghai offices.
Exporting is key to a state like ours with a strong manufacturing focus. As the eighth-largest exporting state, we are the only state with exports that have increased every year since 1998. In 2006, Ohio companies exported $37.8 billion in goods, an increase of 8.7 percent over 2005. Manufacturing has been a challenge for decades. The industry is undergoing a transition, but is still a vital part of our economy, and we are aggressively trying to assist our manufacturers.
Q. How has the legislation supported new and existing projects?
A. The tax reform package in 2005 strived to help companies domestically and globally. We eliminated the inventory tax and tax on machinery and equipment. By 2010, we are eliminating the Corporate Franchise Tax, and we are reducing and restructuring the personal income tax and featuring a 21 percent reduction in the income tax rate schedule, phased in over five years at 4.2 percent per year. To replace the tangible personal property tax on general businesses, the Commercial Activity Tax, an annual tax on the net gross receipts of a businesses' activity within the state of Ohio, is based on .26 percent of gross sales within the state. Our tax code is designed to support companies that invest in their business and have options on where to locate.