CHICAGO (TDB) -- One of the most important federal agencies in Ohio is a little-known branch of the CDC, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which has about 1,100 medical researchers in two Cincinnati laboratories. It has been hunting for a new $70 million home and there were fears NIOSH would leave, taking its multi-million payroll and high-paying jobs to Kentucky or somewhere else.
Today, (and we're breaking the news here on The Daily Bellwether) there are strong signals from the General Services Administration regional headquarters in Chicago that the jobs will stay. Federal officials are definitely trying to find a site near the University of Cincinnati campus. The U.S. EPA already has a lab adjacent to U.C., and the federal government apparently hopes to cluster its scientific brainpower in the same area.
Cincinnati economic development officials got a letter from Chicago earlier this week that outlined the government's hopes of finding a chunk of real estate for the lab, pinpointing their search to an area between the state university's campus and the Cincinnati Zoo. It would have been a severe blow to Ohio's economy if the jobs departed for Kentucky, or to Atlanta, where the CDC is based.
What eventually became NIOSH arrived in Ohio in 1954, when the Robert A. Taft Sanitary Engineering Center opened to study occupational and environmental health, a development then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower saluted as being ''Of special importance to every worker" in America. Taft, grandfather of Ohio's lame duck Gov. Bob Taft, was "Mr. Republican" and a fixture in the U.S. Senate. A second lab opened several miles across town in 1962.
Under Bob Taft's administration, economic development has been spotty and job-retention has been tough. Ted Strickland, the Democrat who replaces Taft next month, has promised better progress ahead, and he may be catching a big break here. Cincinnati's Democratic Mayor Mark Mallory also will look good if he closes the deal on the $70 million project.
NIOSH was created in 1971 under Richard Nixon. Right now, its scientists in the Midwest are studying everything from how to design ergonomically friendly truck cabs for long-haul semi-tractor drivers to the effects of radiation exposure on workers U.S. nuclear weapons plants during the Cold War. The site of new the new lab is not a done deal yet -- but the news so far is good.