Unwelcomed in Ohio. Leaders working to make state less attractive, not more | Our View

“Ohio. Find it Here" road signs welcome visitors at most of our state's borders.

The slogan developed by Columbus-based Cult Marketing was meant to "show how activities and attractions in Ohio can develop deep, emotional connections that will last over time," Ohio tourism officials told the Dispatch after it was revealed in 2015.

The marketing firm now uses its work with Tourism Ohio as a case study of how it was able to market a "state that is not known for anything iconic?" 

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No offense to Cult Marketing, but we'd say there are many iconic things to know Ohio for.

A state steeped in innovation

We will start with the iconic inventors who brought the world the traffic signal (Garrett Morgan), the light bulb (Thomas Edison) and the airplane (Orville and Wilbur Wright). And they are far from the only ones.

For starters, Columbus-born Granville Tailer Woods — the first Black mechanical and electrical engineer following the Civil War — transformed railroad technology.

In more recent years, Columbus has been the home of innovations in healthcare, retail, and computer science. The city is the birthplace of the GIF ( Graphics Interchange Format ) thanks to Steve Wilhite, an employee at the then-formidable CompuServe Incorporated.

Innovation is steeped in Ohio's history and, with the announcement in January that Intel plans to spend $20 billion to build two plants in New Albany, there is renewed hope that innovation will help shift the state from the "Rust Belt" to the "Silicon Heartland." 

What of future innovation?

That bright future might be compromised if state lawmakers continue to push an agenda that makes many feel unwelcomed.

Around the nation, companies and their potential employees are paying attention to the laws state legislature are passing regarding race, gender, sexual orientation, and abortion access — seen as a human right by many on both sides of the issues.

The young and the educated favor abortion rights.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 74% of adults younger than 30 say abortions should be legal in all or most cases, as do 62% of adults in their 30s and 40s.

Sixty-six percent of college graduates surveyed said most abortion should be legal as do 63% of those with some college education.

If the employee shortage prompted by the pandemic taught us one thing, that thing is that workers have options, and many want to work for places that share their values.

About 80% of American workers who took part in a 2021 CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey said that they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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Sought after workers want to work for companies that value diversity, so it reasons that companies want to be located in cities and states that value diversity.

Clash between corporations and politicians

Eli Lilly and Co. is among the companies that recently took Indiana to task after Eric Holcomb, that state's governor, signed a law banning abortion except when there is risk to the life of the mother or within the first 10 weeks in cases of rape and incest.

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A spokesperson for Eli Lilly, one of the state's largest employers, told the Indianapolis Star that the ban would hinder the company's ability to attract diverse scientific, engineering and business talent to Indiana and force it to expand outside of the state.

“Lilly recognizes that abortion is a divisive and deeply personal issue with no clear consensus among the citizens of Indiana," spokesperson Molly Mccully said in a statement. "Despite this lack of agreement, Indiana has opted to quickly adopt one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the United States."

Ohio's new abortion law is even more restrictive than the one in Indiana, banning most abortions — even those that resulted from rape and incest — after a heartbeat can be detected, typically around six weeks of pregnancy.

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade in June and Ohio's new abortion law kicked in, a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim left this state and had a legal abortion in Indiana.

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Diversity and inclusion are a part of business

Jun 26, 2022; Pickerington, Ohio, USA;  Rev. Douglas Grace speaks after being ordained as the first LGBTQ pastor in Licking County and the first gay man ordained to a Presbyterian church in Greater Columbus during an ordination service at Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church in Pickerington on June 26, 2022.. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch
Jun 26, 2022; Pickerington, Ohio, USA; Rev. Douglas Grace speaks after being ordained as the first LGBTQ pastor in Licking County and the first gay man ordained to a Presbyterian church in Greater Columbus during an ordination service at Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church in Pickerington on June 26, 2022.. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

Changing demographics of the workforce and the nation's population help make diversity and inclusion a topic of conversation at many companies even before the murder of George Floyd brought inequalities against Black people and other marginalized groups out of the shadows.

Most large companies and many smaller ones have diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and/or initiatives.

Intel has been measuring its DEI efforts for more than 10 years, according to an article published by HRexecutives.

Intel published the United Kingdom study "Inclusion: The Deciding Factor - How inclusion and diversity will shape business success — in 2030." Among other things, it concluded that it is "increasingly important for people to work somewhere that welcomes people of different backgrounds, provides equal opportunities for underrepresented minorities and people with disabilities, and which is LGBTQ+ friendly. "

After backlash from its employees earlier this year, the Walt Disney Company entered a messy feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over that state's new Parental Rights in Education law which critics have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" law.

The conservative Ohio Chamber of Commerce is among several business groups that have spoken against House Bill 616, which would suppress what teachers can teach kids about the LGBTQ community, racism and history.

JobsOhio campaign to lure businesses to Ohio includes billboards in several cities.
JobsOhio campaign to lure businesses to Ohio includes billboards in several cities.

“Ohio needs to be a welcoming place for all. We should focus on ways to cultivate and harness the talents of Ohioans, while also attracting out-of-state workers to relocate here," an April statement from the Chamber reads. "The Chamber is concerned that that some of the language in this bill may impede Ohio’s ability to lure the best and brightest minds to fill these openings and put down roots in the Buckeye State; however we trust that through the legislative process everyone will get a chance to have their voice heard."

Way back in 1984, the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism created the famous slogan "Ohio, The Heart of It All."

We believe the Buckeye state remains the heart of this nation.

But we cannot grow if it is not welcoming.

That's bad for our businesses and terrible for our people.

This piece was written by the Dispatch Opinion Editor Amelia Robinson on behalf of The Dispatch Editorial Board. Editorials are our board's fact-based assessment of issues of importance to the communities we serve. These are not the opinions of our reporting staff members, who strive for neutrality in their reporting.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio: How abortion ban, anti-Black LGBTQ laws will ruin our economy