We often find ourselves in the position of questioning the wisdom of some government actions. Such was the case last August when we questioned the use of federal stimulus money to fund two programs that provided jobs for private businesses.
We feared these jobs would be just temporary government-funded positions, or a form of corporate welfare. But last week we learned the program has been successful and has resulted in the retention of 25 of the 27 stimulus-funded positions. Larry Kosiba, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunities Development Center in Salem, which contracted with Columbiana County commissioners to undertake the programs in 2009 and 2010, said one of the reasons for the success of these programs is participating businesses were required to submit business plans demonstrating their willingness and ability to retain these positions once the funding ended. He said the businesses also had to provide updates halfway through the program to justify continued funding of the positions.
The first program was through the county Department of Job and Family Services with $310,400 in federal dollars awarded to the JFS from the state. The program, which got off the ground in early 2010, paid the salary and benefits of income-eligible county residents hired by participating local businesses. Applicants were required to have children and a household income of no more than $44,000 for a family of four.
The participating companies were Butech-Bliss in Salem, Global-Pak of Columbiana, and the Laus Deo Foundation and Soaring Eagle Academy, both in East Liverpool.
The most prominent job created by this program was with the city of Salem, which was able to rehire a laid-off firefighter. Kosiba said this hiring helped Salem adequately staff its fire department while also reducing the amount of overtime that would have resulted from the layoff.
The other jobs program involved $248,000 in federal stimulus money awarded to the Community Action Agency. This jobs program was similar in most respects except it paid only a portion of the wages for new workers hired by participating companies.
The funding for this program expired Sept. 30, and a total of 17 jobs were created, 16 of which were retained following the expiration date. Kosiba said the other person quit.
Participating businesses were B & S Terrain, O.T. Beight, Global-Pak Inc., Warneke Insurance, Newbold Technologies, Eagle Pass Golf Course, Natural Resources, Best Consulting, Riverside Roadhouse, Friends Roastery, CMG and Fashion Forward.
Kosiba said of the two programs, "I know there were the naysayers that questioned whether we should be doing this with stimulus money ... but when you get a buy-in from companies, it can work."
Indeed it can, and in this case it worked well. Kudos to those involved.