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If Ohio voters take away one line from this years election, it will be that the state has lost 400,000 jobs. It's a number more ubiquitous than your ZIP code and the first talking point of GOP statewide candidates, from treasurer to governor. And its the mantra of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former congressman and top adviser to President George W. Bush.
Portman uses the figure to put his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, on the defensive. That's because Fisher, who took office in January 2007, also served as the state's development director. That's the position responsible for creating jobs, and Fisher held the title until he announced his U.S. Senate bid in February 2009.
PolitiFact Ohio has found the figure is accurate, ebbing and flowing from month-to-month, but that it leaves out a lot of context. Namely, the national recession influenced the states job losses more than any single politician, and the states been losing jobs under both Democrats and Republicans for more than a decade.
Fisher blames the state's job losses entirely on the recession created by Bush's job and trade policies, which were influenced by Portman's two years in the White House.
While Fisher offered the same defense again in the most recent debates, he also highlighted his argument that as lieutenant governor and development director, he was busy negotiating deals to save and create other jobs across the state.
He drew loud applause from his hometown crowd at the Oct. 8 debate at the City Club of Cleveland when he walked off the stage with this line: "If you want to see the jobs that I've saved and created in this storm he helped create, go anywhere in Ohio. If you want to see the jobs he helped to create, go to Beijing, Shanghi, or Hong Kong."
PolitiFact Ohio already has examined the second part of this statement. We thought now we'd examine the first part, that Fisher created or retained jobs around the state.
Fisher is referring to a number of Ohio companies, some well known, such as Akron's Goodyear Tire & Rubber, and some much less familiar, such as Toledo's Xunslight Corp.
So let's look at some of the deals he has mentioned by name in the debates and on the campaign trail:
Goodyear: Fisher and his colleagues in the development department worked closely with Goodyear officials for months to put together a lucrative aid package that helped persuade the tire maker to build a new headquarters in Akron. Goodyear received a $20 million low-interest loan and $30 million in tax credits from Ohio. These were tied to keeping 2,900 workers for 15 years and its headquarters in Akron for 30 years. Of course, many others, notably Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic and developer Stuart Lichter, also played key roles.
First Solar: The company started here using technology developed at the University of Toledo, but now is based in Arizona. It still has a production plant in Perrysburg. The company received a $225,000 grant in 2009 to expand that facility while Fisher headed the Ohio Department of Development.
Amylin Pharmaceuticals: The San Diego-based company made a decision to open a facility near Cincinnati and later expand its operations before Fisher was in office. But in 2007, Gov. Ted Strickland's administration cut a deal to give the company a 10-year, 75 percent tax credit to encourage it to invest $400 million in an expansion project. At the time, the Cincinnati Enquirer quoted West Chester Township Trustee President George Lang, a Republican, crediting Fisher with helping get the deal done.
Xunlight: The flexible solar panel maker received a $7 million loan from the state in 2008 through a couple of sources. The company has complimented the Strickland administrations focus on renewable energy.
- General Motors: On the verge of collapse just a couple of years ago, the company received support from both Bush and President Barack Obama. Fisher and other Democrats supported the federal governments decision to loan the company $50 billion. And Fisher and Strickland help secure a nearly $82 million state tax package for the company to help expand in 2008.
While Fisher cant claim credit for being singularly responsible for landing any of these deals, he played a role as development director and lieutenant governor. And the state has helped far more companies than noted above.
So, can you find Fisher handiwork in the four corners of the state, as he suggests?
While he's adding a bit of rhetorical flair when he says, look anywhere in the state, he is conveying an accurate picture of his and the development department's work. So we rate his statement Mostly True.
The Plain Dealer, GM tax credit among the largest Ohio hasn’t given," July 30, 2008
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