One of the best — and far too few — examples of regional cooperation in northwest Ohio is the joint economic development zone. Voter-approved JEDZ projects enable Toledo and other local communities to work together on initiatives that promote economic growth, create jobs, and generate shared tax revenue.
JEDZ projects have encouraged extension of water and sewer service to rural and suburban communities, and promoted other infrastructure improvements. They have discouraged aggressive annexation by Ohio cities of adjacent townships and villages.
A bill that has passed the state House — incredibly, with the unanimous support of Toledo area lawmakers — purports to cure abuses in JEDZ projects by killing the patient. It would prohibit new zones after this year, and would impose onerous limits on renewals of zones.
Surely there are ways to correct the alleged excesses of JEDZ plans statewide without destroying a concept that has proven its value over decades. State senators should look for such ways, instead of merely waving the House bill through.
Examples of JEDZ projects in the Toledo area include Dana Corp.’s technical center, now its headquarters — an effort that required the cooperation of Toledo, Maumee, and Monclova Township. This year, another company bought land in the zone for a $10 million project.
Other examples of JEDZ successes include a zone in Maumee that encompasses the Shops at Fallen Timbers, and the Crossroads of America site in Rossford.
Now, Toledo, Swanton, and Monclova Township officials are working on a JEDZ that includes Toledo Express Airport.
The chief sponsor of the bill that would prohibit new JEDZ projects, state Rep. Kirk Schuring (R., Canton), says some central and southwest Ohio townships that cannot levy income taxes directly are using JEDZ designations to engage in money grabs that tax businesses and large employers unfairly. That’s a legitimate concern, even if the Toledo area is not part of his criticism.
But the answer is to ensure that new and existing JEDZ projects prove their economic-development value, to voters and other reviewers. That is a far cry from banning such projects outright.
Joint economic development districts, which Mr. Schuring evidently prefers, do not require voter approval and can give affected businesses virtual veto power. That doesn’t seem an improvement.
Last week, during a discussion on the House bill hosted by metro Toledo’s two state senators, area officials defended the importance of JEDZ projects. Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins, whose city takes part in seven such projects, accurately observed that “the economic sustainability of not just the city, but the region, will be determined by our ability to collaborate with our neighbors.”
Given the slashes in state aid to local governments that Columbus has imposed in recent years, it would be especially underhanded of the General Assembly to deprive Ohio communities — and the regions they comprise — of an essential, time-tested means of self-help. Fix the JEDZ bill, or kill it.