Where the jobs aren’t going Featured

9:50am EDT July 22, 2002

Columbus East Siders are tired of hearing about the ongoing job glut. They’re also tired of watching their once-thriving, inner city neighborhood deteriorate around them. But instead of simply whining about these problems — as has become the American way — they’re setting out to change things.

Good for them. The solution they’ve proposed, in fact, could benefit employers throughout Central Ohio.

The concept is simple: Take some of those surplus jobs employers are having trouble filling in the suburbs and bring them to the East Side.

After all, according to Walter Cates, president of the Main Street Business Association, unemployment is much higher in the center city — between 10 and 15 percent by his estimates — than in many suburban locations. And bringing jobs to areas where potential workers are plentiful, rather than waiting for workers to travel to find these jobs on their own, seems like a reasonable way to battle worker shortages.

It also eliminates any potential transportation issues that might hold back otherwise qualified job-seekers. Did I mention the special tax breaks that are available to companies that provide employment opportunities in government-designated Empowerment Zones, one of which covers the entire East Side?

The Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce ought to be all over this idea, pledging support and even offering to help member businesses find appropriate central city locations for company operations. After all, work force development — linking qualified workers to existing jobs — is one of the chamber’s top priorities. Sadly, the chamber has been silent thus far on the East Siders’ proposal.

One or both of our mayoral candidates could also jump on this bandwagon, making better disbursement of jobs throughout the community a campaign issue. That certainly would liven up the race between Mike Coleman and Dorothy Teater — and give them another, perhaps more substantial, issue than the Northland-Polaris mall dispute to whip up voter support before next month’s election.

With so much of our city’s attention focused on downtown these days with the near-completion of the new COSI building and Nationwide Arena, it’s no wonder fringe areas have been forgotten. It’s time to look around and ask ourselves: What can we do to make the entire central city more inviting and more vibrant? Moving more jobs there seems like a logical first step.

Heaven knows we’ve got more than enough jobs in this city to go around. Perhaps it’s time we reconsidered where we’re putting them.

Nancy Byron (nbyron@sbnnet.com) is editor of SBN Columbus.