FutureStructure

Business Group Proposes Innovation Hubs for Self-Driving Vehicles, Data and More to Jumpstart Ohio's Economy

The proposal wants to jump-start an Ohio economy that has been idle for decades in economic, population and wage growth as well as household income and poverty.

by Mark Williams, The Columbus Dispatch / July 20, 2018
Columbus, Ohio Shutterstock/aceshot1

(TNS) — In recent decades, Ohio has created JobsOhio, Third Frontier and the Edison Technology Center to help boost the state's economy.

Now, a research group affiliated with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce is calling for a new statewide campaign aimed at strengthening the state's innovation economy.

"Ohio is moving forward, but it should move forward more quickly," said Brian Hicks, president of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation, which provides research for state policymakers.

The report, called "Ohio Bold," is calling for the creation of four statewide hubs that could become significant drivers for the economy. The areas of focus would include next-generation manufacturing and materials; health care treatment and services; smart infrastructure such as testing and deploying self-driving vehicles; and data analytics that can help companies improve products and services.

Each hub would bring together industry, research institutions and the public sector throughout Ohio to advance product development, process improvements and the commercialization of new technology.

"Innovation initiatives are not just an important endeavor, but an absolute necessity for our state's economic competitiveness," Hicks said.

The four areas of focus emerged from months of study the foundation did with research group TEConomy Partners, comparing Ohio with other states, looking at programs that are already in place, and assessing areas of potential exponential growth.

For example, the America Makes facility in Youngstown that does research in next-generation manufacturing and materials could be expanded statewide. So could the Research, Entrepreneurship, Discovery and Innovation Zone on the campus of the Northeast Ohio Medical University east of Akron that helps innovators in biotechnology.

The proposal is meant to jump-start an Ohio economy that has been a laggard for decades in economic growth, population growth, wage growth, household income and poverty.

"Ohio could position itself in the innovation space," said Keith Lake, vice president of government affairs for the Ohio chamber.

The report recommends the expansion of several tax credits for companies, new sources of funding for young companies, incentives to keep Ohio graduates in the state, and a new program designed to lure professionals and executives who have left the state back to Ohio.

Although it didn't say what the total cost would be, the report recommended a variety of sources that could be tapped to fund the effort, including the bond fund that has been used to fund Third Frontier, a portion of the state liquor proceeds that go to JobsOhio, federal workforce-development money and private investments.

The foundation developed its recommendation with the input of economic-development partners throughout Ohio, including chamber officials in cities around the state.

It comes as Ohio voters prepare to choose a new governor to take over from John Kasich in January. The foundation said it has shared its ideas with the campaigns of Republican nominee Mike DeWine and Democratic nominee Richard Cordray.

©2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.