Akron officials told lawmakers Feb. 16 that local hiring quotas are a means through which employment opportunities can be provided to city residents.
However, representatives of two trade associations told members of the House State Government Committee that local hiring quotas could have unintended consequences.
Akron Director Public Service John Moore testified as an opponent of legislation (SB 152) that would prohibit a public authority from requiring a contractor to employ a certain number or percentage of laborers from the public authority’s defined geographic area or service area for the construction or professional design of a public improvement. He told the committee that local hiring quotas “were established to ensure our unemployed and underemployed people would have an opportunity.”
The city, he told the committee, is currently undergoing its largest public works project in 200 years – a $1.4 billion sewer project that has resulted in rate increases of 251% over the past five years.
The project includes a local hiring goal of 50%, according to Mr. Moore.
“Akron cannot afford to miss an opportunity to help our residents obtain the training and skills they need so they can work for national, state and local firms bidding on these projects,” he said.
Mr. Moore also blasted the Ohio Contractors Association, which has testified in support of the bill.
“Akron has never asked for a local hiring goal of 100%,” he said. “I don’t know what the rest of the world is like, but in Akron, fair is when you split something equally or 50/50. Apparently, a small child has a better understanding of fair than the Ohio Contractor’s Association.”
Councilwoman Tara Mosley, representing black elected officials of Akron and Summit County, called the measure “an assault on Akron residents.”
“Hiring a percentage of residents who live in the city only makes sense,” she said in written testimony. “Whether it’s 10%, 20% or 50% there needs to be an incentive given back to those cities who at the end of the day are paying for the new jobs that are being created, while strapped with burden of paying for mandated improvements, i.e., extremely high water and sewer bills. We should have a piece of the pie.”
However, Valerie Dahlberg, executive director of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Ohio, told the committee that hiring quotas are “detrimental not only to the construction industry, but also ultimately to the municipalities themselves.”
“Instead of promoting employment, residency requirements actually limit the ability for Ohio employers to complete projects in these municipalities,” she said in written testimony. “We cannot control where our employees live so even if our businesses are headquartered in the municipality, we may not have enough employees to fulfill the requirement. And as you know, in construction, we go where the work is. We are unlikely to have employees living in every municipality that has a project.”
She also told the committee that hiring quotas could benefit companies and workers from outside the state.
“Federal law does not permit local residency requirements to apply to out-of-state contractors,” she said. “This gives an advantage to out-of-state contractors. It seems a perverse result that contractors from Pennsylvania could take a job in Cleveland without worrying about where their workers live but that contractors from Strongsville and Parma could not.”
Jason Clark, a political representative for the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, echoed those sentiments.
“With the restrictive nature of residency requirements some of the most qualified construction professionals within the state would possibly be left out,” he said. “No resident in Ohio should be excluded the opportunity of employment on a project regardless of where the project may be.”