Workforce tops Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce legislative agenda in 2023

And a new concern for members: Civility

All large chambers of commerce pursue priorities with the Ohio General Assembly, and in 2023, the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s list of concerns hits familiar themes.

Workforce, infrastructure and taxes are all on the list. But after a 2022 survey of members, a new concern emerged.

“The business community is very concerned about how contentions the political landscape has gotten broadly,” said Stephanie Keinath, the chamber’s vice president of strategic initiatives. “This isn’t a partisan issue, a Democrat-or-Republican issue. This is a realization that the priorities of this community cannot be accomplished if our legislators aren’t willing to work together.”

Among longstanding priorities, a familiar one remains on top.

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“It’s workforce. It’s no surprise,” Keinath, a registered lobbyist for the chamber, said in an interview Thursday. “For our members and the business community broadly, workforce and talent continue to be the top priority.”

For the chamber, that means a continued emphasis in Columbus on measures that strengthen housing for workers, continue funding for internships and apprenticeships, support the expansion of child care and more.

“Workforce is No. 1 for pretty much all businesses,” said Amanda Byers, the chamber’s director of talent and policy and also a lobbyist. “I think part of what we’re focused on is how to fill those gaps.”

One way is making sure workers who come to Dayton have affordable places to live. That may mean incentives and support for builders and developers to create a growing stock of affordable housing.

“Ultimately, they (developers) have to have a financial case for building this kind of housing,” Keinath said.

The chamber’s areas of concern are organized in familiar ways: Workforce development, attracting military and veteran families, infrastructure and transportation, equity and inclusion and attracting and retaining businesses.

The chamber continues to seek to expand air service at Dayton International Airport. At the state level, the Dayton chamber and other chambers have worked with JobsOhio to go after or create routes the business community wants.

To that end, private nonprofit JobsOhio can provide a revenue backstop to draw airlines to airports. The state provides money, and communities match 20% of the required incentives, to reduce risk airlines face in new communities. The guarantee helped attract Avelo Airlines to Dayton.

The idea is not pay airlines outright but to be in a position to provide funds if new flyers don’t immediately materialize, Keinath said.

“This has been a super successful program,” she said.

Creating a full interchange at Grange Hall Road at Interstate 675 to allow easier access to and from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base remains a priority. “It’s massively important,” Keinath said. “A lot of transportation projects reflect our desire to make that site (the base) as accessible as possible.”

Other road projects on the chamber’s legislative wish list: Improving the Wilmington Pike/I-675 Interchange and building on-ramp/off-ramp access between I-75 and Steve Whalen Boulevard.

The chamber also calls for lessening municipal, state and federal income taxes and their complexity and making it easier for military families to choose schools.

The Dayton chamber does not have a political action committee, Keinath said. It does not fundraise on behalf of candidates or endorse candidates.

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