Pure Romance controversy escalates as State Rep. blasts JobsOhio's 'lack of transparency'

Rep. Driehaus: Ohio causing business instability

CINCINNATI -- The controversy over tax credits denied to Loveland-based Pure Romance escalated Tuesday when State Rep. Denise Driehaus accused the Kasich administration of a “lack of transparency” in its job creation program, JobsOhio.

“This is a larger issue than just Pure Romance,” said Driehaus, a Democrat representing Ohio’s 31st district, which includes Clifton, Evanston, Norwood and Amberly Village.

Driehaus joined Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld at a press conference where both called on the Kasich administration to reverse a decision not to award tax incentives to Pure Romance. The Loveland-based marketer of sexual-enhancement products wants to move 60 headquarters jobs downtown. The company says it will create 60 new jobs after the relocation.

City officials agreed to award incentives worth $358,000 to encourage the company’s relocation to the Delta Air Lines reservations center at 655 Plum Street downtown.

Jobs Ohio, a public private partnership that takes the lead on Ohio economic development projects, worked with the agency on a job creation tax credit deal worth $108,000.

But Ohio Development Services Director David Goodman nixed the tax credit deal, saying it wasn’t the best use of state resources.

Agency spokeswoman Lyn Tolan said last week that multiple factors were involved in the decision, including the company’s industry sector, which doesn’t match the cluster-based strategy of Jobs Ohio. That strategy involves targeting companies in advanced manufacturing, aerospace and aviation, information technology and financial services. She declined to provide other details on the Pure Romance decision specifically.

“We don’t disclose the details of how we award incentives,” Tolan said. “We don’t want to give other states a blueprint for how to outbid Ohio when we’re in the process of a decision.”

Driehaus said the state’s explanation has been “very ambiguous.” Sittenfeld said it was the result of “moral prudishness” on the part of Goodman or his boss, Governor John Kasich.

“If Director Goodman and John Kasich, if they don’t’ like Pure Romance’s products, don’t use them. Don’t work for Pure Romance,” Sittenfeld said. “But don’t deny a lot of Ohioans who’d love to have a good-paying job the opportunity to have that here.”

Driehaus said the Pure Romance decision creates uncertainty for companies looking to expand in Ohio because the deal appeared to be headed for approval then was rejected for reasons she considers “very ambiguous.”

“In the state of Ohio we have criteria for companies that want to get tax credits. Pure Romance fits the criteria,” Driehaus said. “We cannot afford to have the government’s criteria developed by one individual at the state level. That is not good for jobs. It’s not good for economic development and it creates instability in the business community.”

Pure Romance is talking to Kentucky about a relocation proposal to Covington. Sittenfeld said city officials may be able to increase its offer to move the company downtown without Ohio's help.

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