Blog Posts For The Week Of April 17, 2014 Through April 23, 2014

Release: Ohio Poll Warns of Consequences for Congress If They Fail to Protect State's Federal Transportation Funding Source
By Gongwer Staff
Posted: April, 23 2014 3:56 PM

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Sixty-one percent of likely Ohio primary voters would have a less favorable view of their representative and senators in the U.S. Congress if they do not take action this year to protect the state's 2015 federal highway, public transportation and bridge funding, a new poll has found. And that funding is in jeopardy.


The federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) that, on average, provides 58 percent of the money the Ohio Department of Transportation invests in road, bridge and public transportation capital improvement projects each year, is nearly insolvent. The money crunch is so bad the U.S. Department of Transportation says it will be forced to slow down reimbursements to the state for work already done, beginning early this summer. If the Congress does not act to fix the trust fund cash problem before October 1, there will be no federal funds available for any new road, bridge or public transportation improvements in the state next year until a fix is passed.


The poll, conducted by Purple Insights, shows nearly nine in 10 voters think transportation is essential to their daily activities and the state's economy. Over half (59 percent) say it is "very important" to both. Told how dependent the state's road and public transit construction program is on federal funding, 60 percent of likely Republican primary voters and 81 percent of likely Democrat voters say it is "very important" that Congress makes sure the support continues for highways, bridges and public transportation.


"The design, construction and maintenance of Ohio's highway infrastructure employs 109,000 Ohioans. An additional 2.7 million full-time jobs in key Ohio industries such as tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are dependent on the state's transportation infrastructure network. We cannot stand idly by and permit our national legislators to allow federal transportation funds to the states to dry up. Such an action as that adversely impacts every citizen of this state," stated Chris Runyan, President of the Ohio Contractors Association.


"Ohio's 61 transit systems combined to carry over 100 million trips last year. As our economy continues to recover, Congress needs to take the necessary steps to ensure that funding remains in place to provide for trips to work, school, and services within our community," said James Gee, general manager of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority.


The research was conducted by Purple Insights Polling firm and commissioned by the Washington, D.C.-based American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Purple Insights used the methodology of automated telephone interviews for respondents on landline phones and online interviews of voters who predominantly or exclusively use cell phones. The sample size was 500 registered voters in the state. It has a margin of error +/-4.4 percent.

Treasurer Josh Mandel Column: Welders Make $150,000? Bring Back Shop Class
By Gongwer Staff
Posted: April, 23 2014 3:55 PM

Taking pride in learning to make and build things can begin in high school. Plenty of jobs await.

In American high schools, it is becoming increasingly hard to defend the vanishing of shop class from the curriculum. The trend began in the 1970s, when it became conventional wisdom that a four-year college degree was essential. As Forbes magazine reported in 2012, 90% of shop classes have been eliminated for the Los Angeles unified school district's 660,000 students. Yet a 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics study shows that 48% of all college graduates are working in jobs that don't require a four-year degree.

Too many young people have four-year liberal-arts degrees, are thousands of dollars in debt and find themselves serving coffee at Starbucks SBUX +0.47% or working part-time at the mall. Many of them would have been better off with a two-year skilled-trade or technical education that provides the skills to secure a well-paying job.

A good trade to consider: welding. I recently visited Pioneer Pipe in the Utica and Marcellus shale area of Ohio and learned that last year the company paid 60 of its welders more than $150,000 and two of its welders over $200,000. The owner, Dave Archer, said he has had to turn down orders because he can't find enough skilled welders.

According to the 2011 Skills Gap Survey by the Manufacturing Institute, about 600,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled nationally because employers can't find qualified workers. To help produce a new generation of welders, pipe-fitters, electricians, carpenters, machinists and other skilled tradesmen, high schools should introduce students to the pleasure and pride they can take in making and building things in shop class.

American employers are so yearning to motivate young people to work in manufacturing and the skilled trades that many are willing to pay to train and recruit future laborers. CEO Karen Wright of Ariel Corp. in Mount Vernon, Ohio, recently announced that the manufacturer of gas compressors is donating $1 million to the Knox County Career Center to update the center's computer-integrated manufacturing equipment, so students can train on the same machines used in Ariel's operations.

In rural Minster, Ohio, near the Indiana border, electrician and entrepreneur Jack Buschur is creating the Auglaize & Mercer County Business Education Alliance, which will use private-sector dollars to fund a skilled-trade ambassador to walk the halls of local high schools with the mission of recruiting teenagers into these fields. This ambassador will also work to persuade school guidance counselors and administrators to change their tune that college is the only route to prosperity, and to encourage them to inform their students about the many opportunities in skilled trades.

At Humtown Products in Columbiana, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border, CEO Mark Lamoncha is coordinating tours for local high-school guidance counselors to visit his company so that they can learn about job opportunities in advanced manufacturing and 3-D printing. Rather than having students seeing posters only for Ohio State, Pitt, Harvard and Yale in their high-school hallways, he wants to convince the schools' guidance counselors to also post signs for the Choffin Career & Technical Center in Youngstown and the New Castle School of Trades in Pulaski, Pa.

The Ohio School Board Association recently heard a similar message—from the actor John Ratzenberger, whom you might remember as Cliff Clavin, the mailman from the 1980s sitcom "Cheers." Mr. Ratzenberger these days is devoting considerable charitable time and dollars toward raising the profile of America's skilled laborers as role models for young people.

He began this effort in 2004 with a TV show called "Made in America," focusing attention on the rewarding labor of blue-collar workers making everything from Steinway pianos and Wonder Bread to Caterpillar CAT -0.18% equipment and Chris Craft yachts. Now he's crisscrossing the country urging schools to invest in vocational education. On "Cheers," Cliff Clavin never appeared to be overly industrious, but in promoting the restoration of shop class in U.S. high schools, Mr. Ratzenberger is working hard to put young Americans in good jobs. Educators could learn a thing or two from him.

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