By: Brenda Gibson
January 24, 2013
State Representative Terry Johnson
As the 129th General Assembly was drawing to a close last year, everyone was extremely busy staying on top of all the bills, votes, amendments, and interested party meetings. We were in a lame duck session, and it was rapidly drawing to a close. Few members had any spare time, and amidst that chaos, we received word that an employer in southern Ohio was having trouble with an unintended consequence of Ohio’s tax code and feared that they were going to have to move to Texas. They did not want to do this, and needed assistance to stay in our state. But the hour was late, both for their business plan and the legislative session, and prospects seemed dim. Nevertheless, I joined forces with other state representatives and worked to save these jobs and create hundreds of new ones.
The company’s name is Ohio Precious Metals (OPM). They are based out of Jackson, and they take scrap metal from all over the country and refine it to almost to 100 percent purity. Virtually all the jewelry at Tiffany’s came through their factory in one form or another. There are only a few other companies in the America that can refine precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, and palladium with the quality and volume that they do. And on top of that, they were interested in purchasing the former Masco facility in Pike County and hiring a few hundred more people and expand their operation. The only thing standing in their way was a problem in Ohio’s tax laws that needed fixed if they were to stay and grow in Ohio. Given our state’s tax burden, they were about to be forced to leave and move to Texas.
For me, and my fellow representatives, that was unacceptable.
The way that our tax code was written, if the company stayed in Ohio, OPM’s suppliers would have been savaged by the Commercial Activity Tax. Those scrap metal sellers from all over the nation would have had no choice but to sell their goods to refiners in other states — states with more reasonable tax regulations. As a result, OPM would have been forced to move to a friendlier state — or go belly-up.
I don’t represent Jackson or Waverly or Piketon, and even though the Masco facility is not in my district either, a great many of the jobs lost in the recent Masco failure hurt workers from Scioto, Adams and Lawrence counties. If there was a chance to bring some jobs back to that site, I was determined to do everything I could to make it happen.
I worked with State Representatives Ryan Smith (who represents Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, and part of Vinton Counties) and Cliff Rosenberger (who represents Clinton, Highland, Pike, and part of Ross Counties). They too have seen the steady job loss in southern Ohio the past several decades, and they, like me, were looking for an opportunity to reverse the trend. We enlisted the help of veteran State Representative Ron Amstutz (who originally helped write the Commercial Activity Tax) as well as State Representative Peter Beck who happens to be a CPA with much experience in the area of tax law. Additionally, we sought and received the support of Speaker of the House Bill Batchelder who was a great help as we worked to make this last minute job deal a reality. There were many long hours working with OPM and the Ohio Department of Taxation, but through a determination to save and create jobs, we found a way to fix the problem and get the necessary legislative changes on the final day of session. This was vitally important because OPM had to put a non-refundable deposit on the Masco site by the end of the year, and they could not do that until the tax issue was resolved.
The key to all this was teamwork. No one was fighting over petty things or worrying about who would get credit. We came together to find a solution that would bring jobs to Southern Ohio and put more people to work, and because we did, Ohio Precious Metals is growing and will create an estimated 500 jobs in our back yard over the next 7 years. We needed a little good news, and this success was the greatest Christmas gift I could have asked for. Those who know me well can attest that I have a burning passion for team building and positive leadership, and that I mean to do all I can to get government off the back and out of the way of business so that southern Ohio families can thrive once again. Keeping OPM in southern Ohio was a much needed step in that direction and, God willing, there will be many more!
Rep. Johnson may be reached by calling (614) 466-2124, e-mailing District89@ohr.state.oh.us, or writing to State Rep. Terry Johnson, 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215.