SANDUSKY, Ohio (WYTV/AP) — During his State of the State address Tuesday evening, Republican Gov. John Kasich called for devoting $20 million — and Ohio’s famous ingenuity — to scientific breakthroughs in opiate addiction and pain relief.
“Why is Ohio at the epicenter of all of this? It’s location. The same location — 600 miles within 60 percent of the country,” Kasich said. “That helps us get employment, but it’s only a day from Mexico and the drug cartels. It’s only a few hours from Chicago.”
The Third Frontier Commission, which develops the state’s research and technology economy, would spearhead the effort. Created in 2002 by Republican Gov. Bob Taft, the panel is guided by an advisory board and would use existing funds.
As accidental overdose deaths remain at troublingly high rates across the state and country, many of Ohio’s top-tier medical and research institutions, including the Cleveland Clinic and Ohio State University, already have such research underway.
Kasich mentioned as an example a device that connects to someone’s ear that can relieve pain and block the effects of opiate withdrawal.
The governor said by just talking, people can decrease the likelihood someone tries drugs by 50 percent.
“Talk to your kids. Talk to somebody who’s not your kid. Just talk about it.”
At the start of the governor’s and state leaders’ joint legislative session in Sandusky, Kasich said he would broach three topics — where we were, what we’ve gained, and where we’re going.
Ohio’s cities and small towns once overflowed with factories and blue collar jobs, but a shifting economy has left behind many frustrated workers.
“Our greatest moral purpose as governmental leaders is job creation in which people can have work, in which people can have families,” Kasich said.
Their angst showed up in November’s presidential election when working-class voters, in what once were manufacturing and Democratic strongholds, threw their support to Republican Donald Trump and his promises to bring back fair trade and jobs.
Kasich talked about a deficit in jobs six and a half years ago. Now, the state is up 460,000 jobs.
“Forbes ranks us 11th best state for business, that’s up from 38th.”
Kasich’s goal is to diversify the job economy so “when one sector goes down in a tough economic time, another sector can lift us up.”
The 64-year-old said his administration’s efforts to expand the former manufacturing powerhouse into high-tech areas, such as big data, smart transportation, and drones, are already paying off — but there’s more to do.
“The Midwest is ripe for investment, development, and growth — and Ohio is at the center of it,” he said. “The only thing that can hold us back is if we sit on our hands or stop to rest.”
Manufacturing and agriculture are key industries in Ohio. Those are changing just like the auto industry is.
“You won’t touch the controls because there isn’t going to be a steering wheel or pedals. You know this is coming,” Kasich said.
The governor said a successful upward trend will require embracing a shift in the culture of the economy, focused on technology. He urged Ohioans to set aside their political divisions and the “age-old fear of change” to help move the state and nation forward.
Kasich said modern Ohioans should look to the great innovators of the state’s history for inspiration, including Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers. What technologies would those pioneers be embracing now, in the era of drones, self-driving cars, and artificial intelligence, he asked.
“They launched entirely new industries,” Kasich said.
The governor also said he’s creating a task force of business leaders, focused on opening lines of communication and cooperation between Ohio’s schools and employers needed to prepare students for the jobs of the future.
Amazon just opened a new operation center in Ohio on Monday and it now employs 6,000 Ohioans. It’s an example of why Kasich said Ohio needs to focus on educating a local workforce to attract employers.
“If we aren’t prepared for change, people are going to find themselves out of work.”
Kasich’s proposal earlier this year to require school teachers to intern at local businesses was met with much resistance, but he insisted Tuesday that people must move outside their comfort zones for the state to thrive. “Change is coming,” he warned.
“So let’s accept the change but reject the fear, and the hesitancy, and the unwillingness to prepare. We must get ahead of the coming wave. We want to act and not react,” Kasich said.
Kasich delivered the speech in the Lake Erie city of Sandusky, home to Cedar Point, which touted its contributions to the state’s $42 billion tourism industry during the day of promotional events and Cabinet member appearances that has become a tradition.
The address was timed for within weeks of Kasich’s new book, “Two Paths,” reflecting on his experience as a candidate in last year’s election. It expands on a campaign speech in which he warned against “vicious” campaign tactics as undignified and playing on hate and fear.
Valley leaders and lawmakers are talking about the Rainy Day Fund — which Kasich never mentioned Tuesday.
Mahoning County Republican Vice Chairwoman Tracey Winbush said she thinks money is being spent wisely and that Kasich has been prudent. She said Kasich is cutting the fat and keeping the Rainy Day Fund for something critical.
“It is always nice to have a savings, a cushion, so I am quite sure if it is necessary, it will be used. But if we can find ways to cut costs and cut what we are doing to get things done, I think we are going to try and make that happened,” Winbush said. “If something is critical, we still have the fund there. We don’t want to bleed it dry.”
State Senator Joe Schiavoni, (D – Minority Leader), said things are critical right now and is frustrated with the governor is handling the money.
“We are still in difficult times when it comes to our infrastructure; when it comes to our schools; when it comes to the opioid epidemic. Those dollars could we well spent. Even a portion of those dollars could be well spent in making a difference in those three areas,” Schiavoni said.