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Making the Stimulus Work for Everyone

By John Fox · April 15th, 2009 · Editorial


Is your company going to be receiving stimulus money? Will you be partnering with the state or local government to build something for your community?

What, you don’t know how to become part of the stimulus program? You don’t have connections with legislators to get your idea funded? You’re not part of the club?

State Sen. Eric Kearney (D-Avondale) feels your pain.

After noticing that early proposals filed to access Ohio’s portion of the federal stimulus package were connected to large, established businesses and organizations — i.e., the usual suspects — Kearney persuaded Gov. Ted Strickland to reach out to small businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits to explain the stimulus process. A bevy of Columbus bureaucrats will be in town Thursday to shed some light.

The governor’s office is hosting two sessions Thursday (10 a.m. and noon) at TechSolve at 6705 Steger Drive (Paddock Road exit off of I-75). Besides Strickland aides, representatives from the Ohio Department of Development, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Ohio Department of Administrative Services, Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Benefit Bank will be on hand.

The events are free and open to the public.

Panelists will present information about projects they’re planning to use stimulus funds for and ways small businesses can get involved. They’ll also answer questions about how to submit new proposals.

“I’m just trying to open the process more for citizens who might not otherwise be involved in these decisions,” Kearney says. “Most of the time business like this is done through connections and access, but the stimulus bill offers a great opportunity to get more people involved.”

Lots of people already are involved, with more than 23,500 proposals having been submitted to Strickland’s office through the Ohio Recovery web site (recovery.ohio.gov). Ohio is expected to receive more than $8 billion total via various stimulus programs.

Strickland has farmed out the job of deciding which projects to fund to an “infrastructure czar,” Ronald Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. Since Cleveland traditionally has sucked up more state money than it deserves, the fact that a Cleveland executive is in charge of divvying out the stimulus money doesn’t bode well for little guys in Cincinnati getting a fair shake.

Kearney says he and his fellow legislators don’t have a say in which proposals get funded. He’s simply “setting the table” to make sure his constituents know what’s going on.

About 500 people have RSVP’d to attend on Thursday, Kearney says. Media Bridges will film the sessions and broadcast them later on public access TV, further spreading the word.

Register for Thursday’s events at development.ohio.gov/ recovery/RegionalStimulusWorkshops.

CONTACT JOHN FOX: jfox@citybeat.com



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