Columbus -- Gov. John Kasich voiced "deep concern" Dec. 5 that oil and gas companies were hiring out-of-state workers for jobs in the state's emerging production fields that should be going to Ohioans.
"We are currently looking at the possibility that these energy companies that have come into Ohio to extract our very valuable assets may not be hiring Ohioans," the governor said. "That is a very serious matter."
But the head of one industry group called Kasich's comments off base.
"If we could quit trying to find ways to confiscate return on investment and instead try to put investment in the state of Ohio to work and try to figure out ways to quit punishing producers who are actually trying to expand ... here in the state of Ohio, perhaps we could move this state forward and expand the opportunity for everybody," said Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.
Kasich said he has repeatedly asked energy companies to forecast the types of employees they are seeking so that the state could provide the proper training or education policies to meet the need.
"... We don't want foreigners working in our field, and foreigners are people from Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi and Texas," Kasich said, repeating a jest he's used in speeches since taking office. "We want Ohioans working here."
Kasich said his administration is gathering evidence about the out-of-state hires.
"We understand companies need to ramp up," he said. "We're not in a position [here] where we don't understand common sense. But I'm concerned about these reports that somehow people are being transported to this state. You could have a situation where we're not getting the jobs, they're taking the resources and all their profits and they're heading home. That is not acceptable to me."
He added, "We expect them to be responsive to the people of this state."
Kasich's comments likely will add to the debate over his plan to increase taxes on oil and gas production while implementing a corresponding decrease in the state's income tax rates.
The industry is expected to add billions of dollars into the state economy in years to come, and Kasich wants to increase severance taxes to ensure some economic benefit for Ohio from big profits expected by out-of-state energy companies.
But some Statehouse Republicans oppose the plan, as does the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and other groups.
Stewart said the oil and gas industry has pumped more than $3 billion into the state as part of the emerging shale-related production
"I've talked to many members of mine who report to me that they have doubled, tripled the expansion of jobs, expansion of investment, expansion of equipment and durable goods and that they're hiring people just to keep up with this play," he said, adding later, "If all you do is drive through Carroll County or Harrison County or any of these other eastern counties that are experiencing this, you will see a renaissance of economic development that is rippling through their economies."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.