What the US can learn from Ohio's turnaround: Gov. Kasich

Ohio Gov. John Kasich
Source: Office of Ohio Governor John Kasich
Ohio Gov. John Kasich

These are exciting times in Ohio, where we continue our state's historic transformation as a dynamic and welcoming place for business to thrive. That outlook wasn't nearly so optimistic earlier in the decade.

When I took office in 2011, our job creation and retention numbers were dismal. Industries were packing up and leaving the state. Ohio faced an $8 billion budget shortfall, our rainy-day reserves held less than a dollar, and our credit outlook was bleak.

It's not that way anymore, thanks to the wide range of business-friendly reforms and improvements we've made. What has been the No. 1 driver of Ohio's success? It was getting state government's fiscal house in order. We did it by creating a new model for commonsense fiscal management based on sound budgeting, conservative estimating and restrained spending.

Now, with a strong, balanced budget, $2 billion-plus in reserves and improved credit outlooks, we're attracting job creators who want to do business in a state that's on a solid financial footing. Plus, these business innovators have seen us reduce taxes by a net $5 billion (with particular emphasis on tax relief for small business), eliminate the death tax and save Ohio employers $4.3 billion in workers compensation costs.

To take full advantage of Ohio's improved attractiveness for business, we created JobsOhio, a fast-moving, privatized economic development corporation with one essential goal: turn around Ohio's reputation by building the best job-creation engine of any state in the nation. Over the past five years, JobsOhio has been integral to Ohio's success and an agile, innovative complement to our improved business climate that is admired as a model for other states to follow.

These efforts have helped us attract new businesses, grow existing ones and diversify our economy, all steps toward creating 428,000 new private-sector jobs for Ohioans. Existing Ohio businesses, like General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Honda, IBM and Abbott Laboratories, have expanded their presence here, while we've welcomed new jobs and investment from innovators like Amazon, Fuyao Glass America and Assurex Health. With this exciting record, I am confident we'll attract even more businesses and industries moving forward.

"What has been the No. 1 driver of Ohio's success? It was getting state government's fiscal house in order."

And you don't have to take my word for it. A number of national reports have recently confirmed the impressive turnaround in Ohio's business climate. In its latest national survey of 513 CEOs, Chief Executive found Ohio has the most-improved business climate in America, jumping 12 spots since last year to No. 10 overall and a full 34 places since 2010. A survey of 1,000 middle-market executives by The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business shows Ohio companies are making more money and hiring more workers than those in other states.

Plus, Ohio executives say they expect revenue to increase by 9.2 percent over the next 12 months — more than double expectations of their peers nationwide. In another national survey, Dun & Bradstreet and American Express rank Ohio first in the nation for growth in the number of middle-market firms, with an estimated 7,233 middle market enterprises in our state, more than double the number just five years ago.

Reports like these are solid validation of Ohio's growing reputation as one of America's top states for business. Strong fiscal management, lower taxes and a business-friendly attitude have brought Ohio far over the first half of this decade and will continue to drive our success going forward.

— By Ohio Gov. John Kasich

Editor's note: This commentary was written before the release of the Top States 2016 data. The governor did not have knowledge of the rankings or the comprehensive data.