Ohio Community Development, Technology Conference

I am at the Ohio Community Development, Innovation, & Technology Conference in Columbus, Ohio, and I'll be posting highlights from the meeting for the next day or so. The conference is sponsored by the Ohio Community Development Corporation Association.

Ohio, which has faced some real challenges over the past several decades as manufacturing has declined, is doing a lot of things surprising well. Lt. Governor Bruce Johnson described the state's "Third Frontier" initiative, which is well-focused, and state leaders have wisely tried to first identify strengths in the state first, and then have followed up with strategic investments to leverage existing assets. That may seem obvious, but I see a lot of economic development strategies that don't really do those things.

Among the Third Frontier strategies are to look for new markets for traditional agricultural products like soybeans. Researchers in the state are looking at producing new kinds of polymers from soybeans (the state is a big producer of soybeans).

The state is also not just throwing money at projects. It insists on real, cash on the table collaboration before it will provide funds for new ventures, and says that it is getting a 13:1 match from the private sector on joint ventures--a pretty good track record. The state extends this collaborative approach to university research, insisting that if universities think they can build a better mousetrap and want money from the state, then the university has to put some of its own money on the table.

All in all, good sensible stuff from Ohio.

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