COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Although the Ohio Grocers Association is 100 years old, it has been an active player in the state's legislative activities only since it broadened its parameters in 1986.
, for most of its existence it was content to limit its activities to social events, leaving responsibility for representing the industry at the state capital to the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, which served as the voice of the state's food industry since 1922.
It began reconsidering its historic role in 1985, when it was seeking a new president and chief executive officer, and decided that a restructuring was necessary to forge a new OGA that could work with the Council of Retail Merchants to represent the food industry, the history noted.
In 1986 Thomas S. Jackson was hired as the association's first full-time president and CEO. A former independent grocer from Canton, Ohio, Jackson left his position as vice president for association services and relations at the National Grocers Association to take the Ohio job.
According to the history, "these were humble beginnings" for the restructured OGA, with fewer than 100 members and no programs or services comparable to what was being offered elsewhere in the state. Jackson told SN the association currently has more than 900 members.
According to the history, the new OGA's first move was to introduce a coupon-redemption program, which won the immediate support of five of the six local state associations and gave the OGA an instant identity.
OGA scored another step forward in 1989, the history noted, when Jackson was named chairman of a statewide coalition of organizations called STOP -- Stop Taxing Ohio's People -- which successfully opposed a 10-cent increase in the state's tobacco excise tax.
For the OGA to represent the entire Ohio food industry, it had to broaden its membership to include all operators in the state, including national and regional chains -- a decision the history said met with some reluctance by some OGA members, who preferred that chains be excluded.
"However, [once] members could see that problems faced by independents were also common to chain operators, it seemed very appropriate to tackle these challenges together, especially in the government relations area," the history noted.
The history said the OGA further strengthened its position as a statewide association when it increased its board to include representatives from full-line wholesalers and direct-store-delivery vendors.
Over the years the OGA strengthened its services by offering educational and training programs for store-level employees and middle managers, the history pointed out.
The OGA's legislative accomplishments over the years, according to the history, include the following:
Helping to pass legislation this year that deregulated electric utility companies.
Helping to streamline the state's food-establishment inspection process this year and setting up a uniform statewide food code.
Helping to defeat a 1993 ballot measure that would have required labeling of 458 chemicals on consumer products.
Supporting conversion of state-run liquor stores to private-agency stores in 1991.
Successfully opposing efforts to reduce vendor sales tax allowances in 1991, although the allowance was cut in half three years later -- a move the OGA said it is working to reverse.
Helping to defeat a 1990 mandatory container-deposit bill.
Helping to reform the workers' compensation system by reducing costs and bureaucracy on an ongoing basis since 1986