SALEM — Not many state agencies come into a county and deliver $8.4 million back to employers.
But that’s what happened when Sarah Morrison, administrator/CEO of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, presented a check in that amount to Columbiana County businesses on Tuesday.
The money is part of the “Third Billion Back” program, Morrison said, in which employers in the Youngstown area received a total of $60 million in rebates.
The area breakdown is $27.5 million for Mahoning County, $16.2 million for Trumbull County, $8.4 million for Columbiana County and $7.7 million for Ashtabula County.
Morrison appeared at the Humtown Product’s new Agile Casting Solutions Inc. facility in the World Trade Park in Leetonia, to alert area employers to be on the lookout for their “Third Billion Back” checks.
She said the last batch have been mailed out in white envelopes and delivered by the U.S. Postal Service (not electronically transferred) and businesses, schools and local governments should be on the look-out for them.
“We’re encouraging employers to invest in safety,” she said.
Morrison presented a check for $8,406,087 to Deann Davis of PHD Mfg. and Humtown Products President Mark Lamoncha, both with the Columbiana Area Chamber of Commerce. on behalf of Columbiana County employers, and to Columbiana County Commissioner Mike Halleck.
Penny Traina, chief executive officer of the Columbiana County Port Authority, which owns the World Trade Park, was also at the presentation.
Morrison said, “These rebates were made possible by our agency’s strong investment returns, and they demonstrate our commitment to help Ohio businesses thrive and grow.”
Humtown Products is a 3-D sand manufacturer and the company recently opened Agile Casting Solutions Inc. in the World Trade Park.
“It’s been an interesting journey, it takes a lot to keep a company going,” Lamoncha said and called his company’s relationship with the BWC “a partnership” which Morrison picked up on.
“A partnership with the BWC, we really appreciate that,” she said, “we set a goal years ago, we wanted to be a world class worker’s comp bureau.”
She added, “We take seriously our partnership with business, both public and private.”
Lamoncha said, “The BWC’s rebate is more than money; it signifies the value Sarah and her team have for Ohio business, and the 3-Dimensioanl thinking and leadership it takes to insure the future for companies and their team members.”
Halleck said the Kasich (Gov. John Kasich) administration “has done a great job as it relates to business. I like to think we’ve done a good job out here.”
It was the third time in four years that the BWC, which previously gave $1 billion rebates in 2013 and 2014, returned more than $1 billion to Ohio’s private and public employers. Kasich proposed the latest rebate in March.
Combined with a nearly 30 percent in average rate cuts and $3 billion in previous rebates and credits, the latest rebate means the BWC has saved Ohio employers more than $6 billion since 2011.
Morrison said an improving safety climate, good fiscal management and better-than-expected investment returns resulted in the State Insurance Fund having a net position of more than $9 billion.
She added that prudent fiscal management and declining claims were also factored into BWC’s financial strength.
The annualized return of investments was seven percent over the last three fiscal years, including a total net return of 5.8 percent in FY2016. BWC’s expected annual investment return is four percent.
She also noted the BWC will launch a $44 million investment in new health and safety initiatives with three-to-one matching grants aimed at promoting a healthy workforce and a culture of safety by reducing repetitive motion injuries and a wellness program that, for example, helps small employers access stop smoking programs for employees.
The program includes $2 million a year for two years to help fire departments invest in safety.
Lamoncha said he sees leadership in the BWC and the Youngstown district office has “done a lot of testing for us.”
He said that every Friday Humtown employees meet for “team time” and discuss safety.
“Safety has to be a way of life,” he said, “it has to be alive inside of you and raise awareness inside of you.”
Morrison said, “Ohio employers think seriously about safety. We want everyone to to go home safe at the end of the day.”