Ohio economic development strategy

Pat Valente, the Deputy Director for the Department of Development of Ohio, spoke at the Ohio CDC Technology conference about the state's strategy for economic development. Here are the key points:

  • Focus on the core competencies and strengths of the state.
  • Encourage collaboration among state agencies, industry, and university researchers to help create innovative new products and services.
  • Ohio intends to compete fully in the global economy, and nothing less is acceptable.
  • Translate research into products; Ohio wants to help university researchers translate research results into commercial successes.
  • Entrepreneurs are creating the new jobs, and it is the job of economic developers to nurture entrepreneurs.
  • Provide capital for early stage ventures.
  • Invest in workforce development so that Ohio has workers with the advanced skills needed to find and keep good paying Knowledge Economy jobs.

What is most interesting about Valente's remarks is what went unsaid. There was nothing about industrial recruitment or giving lavish tax breaks to big companies. Ohio is probably still doing some of those things, but the emphasis on entrepreneurs and support for innovation is refreshing. The state is also headed in the right direction by identifying assets and competencies already in the state and trying to leverage those, rather than just imitating what has worked elsewhere or just trying a lot of stuff and hoping something sticks.

As examples of this strategy, Valente mentioned a focus on fuel cells as an alternate power source. The state is funding research to use biomass as a feedstock for fuel cells, leveraging the state's agricultural industry. It is also funding the development of new polymers (plastics) from soybeans rather than fossil fuels, because the state is a big soybean producer.

If Ohio sticks to this plan, it will have an advantage over many other states that don't have the same level of focus. I thought only one thing was missing--a statement of intent to ensure that every business in the state has affordable broadband. If Ohio is serious about competing in the global economy, you can't leave this to chance.

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