Senator Portman down to business PDF Print E-mail
Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor   
Saturday, 08 February 2014 10:13
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman speaks in Perrysburg. (J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
PERRYSBURG - U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, stressed the need for energy development, work force development, regulatory relief, boosting trade and tax reform in a visit to Northwest Ohio Friday.
Portman spent the morning visiting the Owens-Illinois world headquarters in Perrysburg and the early afternoon as the keynote speaker at the Northwest Ohio Manufacturing Forum at the Holiday Inn French Quarter. From there he went to the University of Toledo to participate in a conference on international human trafficking, prostitution and sex.
Portman said his perception of Northwest Ohio is that "a lot is going on with people in the trenches trying to create jobs."
At O-I, Portman said he learned about "cutting edge" gas technology to make glass and O-I's $35 million innovation center. "They, like most, are doing more with less people with automation and efficiencies. This drives the need for more skilled workers in Ohio and the country."
Portman said American products are in demand around the world but the U.S. rates only 120th per capita in exports. "The American worker can make products for the world." He noted that 30 to 40 percent of the Jeep Wranglers being made at Toledo are exported and that one-third of the corn and soybeans grown in the region are exported. "We are at our best when we are building things. Ohio has always been a strong manufacturing state and we need to continue to focus on that."
He mentioned other economic development in the region stretching from Lima, Findlay and into Toledo. "The Wrangler and Cherokee plant may at some point become the biggest auto manufacturing plant, and who would have thought that five years ago. It's a tribute to the UAW and the management for the hard work they have done to make the plant competitive. I bought a Cherokee myself, but my wife thought I bought it for her. She's the speaker in my house, so you know where that left me."
On energy development Portman said the Keystone pipeline needs to become a reality. "It's a no-brainer for me. We can put the oil from the Baaken (North Dakota) in with the Canadian oil." He also touted steps toward energy efficiency, citing "enormous potential." He has been promoting a bipartisan effort encouraging manufacturing with research and development for efficiency, believing it could help industry could gain 5 to 15 percent in efficiencies to become competitive globally. He said O-I's efficiencies have helped its business. Energy efficiencies should be developed for federal government facilities, he said.
Portman said Eastern Ohio is benefiting from oil and gas drilling and suggested more public lands be opened for exploration. After the session Portman promoted the idea of more off-shore exploration when asked what public lands should be developed.
Citing figures from JobsOhio, Portman said there are 100,000 jobs in the state lacking skilled workers to fill. The need ranges from information technology to welders. With 400,000 people out of work in Ohio, Portman said he would support a three-month extension of jobless benefits if a job training component is required of recipients. He voted against an extension this week when the Senate failed for a second time to pass a bill. "It won't solve all of the problems but there is work on a bipartisan level to get this passed."
Portman decried the cost of government regulations, which he said hamper the ability of firms to be competitive. He said the regulations help drive business out of the country.
He is encouraged by statements by President Obama in the State of the Union speech but perplexed by comments of Senate Majority Leader Henry Reid that he doesn't like Obama's approach. "I have not known Harry Reid to not do what the president wants, except for this."
Portman said he thinks the unions got the message from the State of the Union speech.
Portman said tax reform would help keep more businesses in the U.S. "We are not competitive globally with these taxes and codes. We now have the highest corporate taxes in the world."  He said Japan was at the top of the list until recent changes here.

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