Turner, local statehouse delegation align legislative priorities

Credit: Avery Kreemer

Credit: Avery Kreemer

U.S. Congressman Mike Turner met with Dayton-area lawmakers Monday to confer on legislative priorities and iron out alignment among federal and local legislators heading into a new year that promises local economic growth.

Turner, joined by six local Statehouse Republicans and the area’s sole Democrat, touched on the importance of bolstering the region’s housing, transportation and workforce ahead of a forthcoming boon in new jobs.

Much of the conversation revolved around new funding coming to Wright-Patterson Air Force base, including over $19.5 million upfront for the planning and design of a new complex for the Life Cycle Management Center. Turner said it was the first step in what will eventually become a $200 million expansion for the base.

The Dayton Congressman also touched on a $50 million federal investment in the base’s childcare sites, which he said “will go right to the needs of the workforce, the men and women who contribute to our national security at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

This year, those public workforce investments were coupled with a high-profile private investment from Joby Aviation, which by 2025 plans to manufacture what it calls “electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles” and create up to 2,000 area jobs.

While legislators view these investments as positive, they stressed the need to work together to ensure that the region is able to accommodate such an influx of jobs — particularly when it comes to attracting, developing and maintaining a qualified workforce.

“We have a lot of workforce issues,” said state Rep. Andrea White, R-Kettering. “We’ve got to get childcare, housing, (and) transportation and I’m very encouraged of the alignment with what (Turner is) working on for our region and what we’re trying to do.”

Turner said he hopes to leverage federal and state funds to build out affordable housing in the region, while also attracting more private capital investments that will naturally create a responsive housing market as Joby sets up shop and Wright-Patt continues its expansion.

“Quality housing is incredibly important to be able to attract that workforce,” Turner said, “so that certainly is an item at the top of the list.

Marijuana concerns

Separate from housing, there are growing workforce concerns from employers and industry associations following Ohio’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana.

Entering 2024, the state’s permanent legislative framework for recreational marijuana is far from settled, but it’s likely that the final law will protect an Ohio employer’s right to keep drug-free workplaces and deny applicants, or fire employees, based on recreational marijuana use.

While many private companies will have the choice of whether or not to screen their hires for drug use, public employers like Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and federally contracted companies like Joby Aviation will have to maintain their drug-free workplace policies — potentially limiting their hiring pool.

“Under federal law, marijuana is still an illegal drug for the 35,000 people that work inside the fence of Wright-Patt Air Force Base and some of the 20,000 people outside of the fence who have security clearance, the change in Ohio law is irrelevant,” Turner said.

Follow DDN statehouse reporter Avery Kreemer on X or reach out to him at Avery.Kreemer@coxinc.com or at 614-981-1422.

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