With the first year of the 129th General Assembly nearly in the book, it's an ideal time to recap what has happened thus far. A lot of progress and positive changes have been made in Ohio on the job creation front, and the same kind of effort must be made next year to continue that trend.
With a state unemployment rate having hovered above 9%, it is obvious that getting people back to work must be our first prerogative. From the time the House first convened in January to our sessions held just last week, the legislature has worked hard to seek innovative ways to stimulate job creation in Ohio. We just received word that, during the month of November, Ohio had its biggest decrease in unemployment in 30 years. Apparently Ohio's efforts are starting to bear fruit.
The first bill passed out of the House (HB 1) created JobsOhio, a non-profit panel of experienced private business experts to look for ways to make Ohio more economically competitive. They work with businesses that are interested in coming to the state and express to them all that our state has to offer. We have seen increased interest by businesses looking to relocate from another state and create jobs, and we've done a better job of retaining those businesses that might have left, including Edgetech, a company that recently announced it would remain in Cambridge and actually add 100 jobs. Senator Troy Balderson and I worked with Governor Kasich to make that possible, and that's great news for our part of the state. Meanwhile, credit agencies are lauding our efforts to make Ohio more fiscally sound, while downgrading the federal government. We need to stay the course.
A booming economy depends not only on a strong private sector, but also on a government that is accountable to the taxpayers. In order to meet that responsibility, I proudly supported House Bill 2, which allows the Auditor of State to conduct performance audits on state agencies. This will help ensure that all of our state agencies funded by the taxpayers are running smoothly and efficiently, without redundancies or waste. It is especially critical in times like these that we make every effort to get the most out of every tax dollar spent. I spoke with representatives in State Auditor Dave Yost's office last week; the results of the first performance audits will be available very soon. I'm also going to work with the auditor's office to see how we can reduce the cost of audits for those government subdivisions who receive clean audits.
One major initiative that has received a lot of attention has been the development of Ohio's natural resources by drilling for oil and natural gas under the state's surface. Certainly I and many others have discussed it on numerous occasions. More than 800,000 wells have been drilled in Ohio since the 1950s by utilizing hydraulic fracturing without a single confirmed case of water contamination, according to the Ohio Engineers' Association. Though we should always be cognizant of environmental concerns, the opportunity that natural gas and oil production presents for Ohio is encouraging. Most estimates predict that about 200,000 jobs can be created from this development, many of which will be created in the 93rd District and adjacent counties. Already we are seeing booming retail sales of automobiles, farm equipment and other amenities. Hotel rooms are booked; many for an entire year in advance. Now we need to explore how we can capably undertake the massive workforce development this shale play will require over the next decade.
The mission of the 129th General Assembly is simple: Reduce the cost of doing business in Ohio by lowering the tax burden and keeping government from standing in the way of free market growth. Ohio's economy is beginning to move forward once again, and I have faith that we will see even more progress made next year.
Rep. Thompson may be reached by calling (614) 644-8728, e-mailing District93@ohr.state.oh.us, or writing to State Rep. Andy Thompson, 77 South High St., Columbus, Ohio, 43215.