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Published: Wednesday, 9/21/2011


Jobs at what price?


Toledo needs jobs. But what kind and at what cost? That’s a question City Council must answer as it considers whether to drop local-hire rules tied to tax concessions for businesses.

Companies that want to lower their city property taxes now must agree to hire one-fourth of their new workers from Lucas County — 10 percent from the central city area — and advertise openings with The Source of Northwest Ohio. That apparently is too onerous, so Mayor Mike Bell’s administration wants to make the hiring rules mere proposals that businesses can choose to follow — or not.

The standard refrain is that the rules are burdensome, outdated, too complicated, and impossible for businesses to follow. The threat is that if business owners don’t get what they want, they’ll take their jobs elsewhere. The same argument is used to oppose environmental regulations, workplace-safety rules, a living wage, and reasonable benefits.

Opponents argue that local tax dollars should not create jobs for outsiders. Investment in Toledo, they say, does no good unless it puts local people to work.

There is some merit in both arguments. It is unreasonable to set specific hiring quotas if local workers with the needed skills don’t exist. But too many Toledoans are out of work, and businesses will ignore guidelines that carry no force.

Business owners are in the driver’s seat. Only they, as council member George Sarantou correctly noted, can create jobs. So they use the promise of new jobs to wrest ever-greater concessions from desperate communities.

The only winners in that race to the bottom are the businesses that profit from low wages, weak regulation, and generous tax concessions.

Rather than getting rid of the rules or blindly adhering to policies that don’t work, City Council should craft regulations that give job creators hiring flexibility, but offer meaningful encouragement to put local people to work.

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