The Union County Chamber of Commerce Board of Trustees has formally voiced its support for Senate Bill 376 as proposed in the 127th Ohio General Assembly.

The Union County Chamber of Commerce Board of Trustees has formally voiced its support for Senate Bill 376 as proposed in the 127th Ohio General Assembly.

Chamber board members voted during the Nov. 19, board meeting to pass a resolution supporting the legislation, which would revise the prevailing wage law.

On Oct. 15, the Ohio Department of Commerce changed its interpretation of the prevailing wage law requiring prevailing wage to be paid on a number of private projects that receive public funding from state or local entities.

Chamber President David Thorbahn said the new interpretation will force private companies and developers to pay prevailing wages when they receive public funds to assist with their private development, thereby dramatically increasing the cost of labor for construction.

Thorbahn said the new interpretation alters the way private/public development projects have been administered in the state of Ohio since the prevailing wage law was passed in 1931.

Thorbahn said Ohio has lost its competitiveness with other states and has experienced recent economic stagnation, including the loss of more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001.

Thorbahn contends that this change in interpretation to the prevailing wage law will discourage public/private development projects and ultimately discourage business growth in Union County and in the State of Ohio.

Sen. John Carey has proposed SB 376, which clarifies the prevailing wage law, requiring its application only on development projects that receive 35 percent or more of public funding for the total development costs.

"The Union County Chamber of Commerce believes that SB 376 will clarify the reinterpretation of the prevailing wage law and will provide definitive standards to be applied to public/private developments in the State of Ohio," Thorbahn said. "The Union County Chamber of Commerce believes SB 376 will reverse the detrimental development impacts of the Ohio Department of Commerce's new interpretation and will assist with promoting business growth and development in the State of Ohio."

The Union County Chamber of Commerce Board of Trustees voted to support the enactment of SB 376 and encourages the 127th Ohio General Assembly take action of the legislation by the end of 2008. The board also voted to support business growth and job creation in Ohio and encourage the governor, Ohio Department of Development and Ohio Department of Commerce to work with the Ohio General Assembly in supporting SB 376.

"We have identified four projects that could be immediately impacted by the new prevailing-wage guidelines," said Eric Phillips, CEO of the Union County Chamber of Commerce and Union County economic development director, said in testimony last week before the Senate Finance and Financial Operations Committee. "These projects involve hundreds of jobs. We are working hard to attract and keep every job we can and our chamber board believes that now is not the time to increase costs on those who want to invest in Ohio. Ohio needs to become more competitive, not less."

jdonahue@thisweeknews.com