Monday, September 14, 2009

Tech across Ohio - Securing Our Tech-Belt Potential

Ben's note: hmmm... I wonder what the Columbus community thinks of this??

Original posting at

By: Lorie Llorens, Marketing Manager, BrandMuscle Inc.

If you live in the Northeast, or have an interest in high-tech entrepreneurship, you may have heard rumblings of a new Cleveland-Pittsburgh Technology Corridor.

The initiative, according to collaborators, “is an economic development strategy designed to reinvigorate the region by building on its unique civic, educational, healthcare and industrial institutions.”

The corridor would encompass Cleveland, Youngstown and Pittsburgh, which share common traits. Because all of these cities were built on a foundation of entrepreneurial spirit and innovation – and their success depends on their ability to generate new products, technologies and wealth – the idea makes a lot of sense.

The trick will be bringing the idea to fruition and ensuring the corridor’s long-term success. That’s not so easy. While many areas have attempted to build a technology corridor, only a handful has been successful, including Silicon Valley and RTP in North Carolina.

Successful corridors share commonalities:

  • A single regional coordinating organization
  • Cooperation between city leaders, business leaders and local citizens
  • Infrastructure improvements
  • Human capital (either home-grown or transplanted from other regions)
  • Venture capital
  • Top-line universities as anchors
  • Standardized, above-area-average wages and employer benefit contributions
  • Reasonable cost of living
  • Desirable quality of life
  • Business tax incentives

It’s fair to say that we have some of these covered. We have the top-notch universities, medical facilities and research institutions. In Cleveland, our cost of living is much more reasonable than in other parts of the country, and many enjoy the area’s family-friendly quality of life.

Additionally, the number of high-tech jobs in Northeast Ohio has been gaining ground since 2007, according to the Northeast Ohio High Tech Economy Report, released March 12, 2009. Additionally, nearly 2,500 tech companies are listed in the Northeast Ohio Software Association directory, and several organizations, including the Northeast Ohio Technology Coalition (Nortech), are growing northeast Ohio's high-tech economy across all sectors. Likewise, the Pittsburgh Technology Council listed nearly 7,300 tech firms in its State of the Industry Report 2007.

However, other aspects may take some work. It will be up to the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and the Alleghany Conference on Community Development and its Affiliates to support and advocate on behalf of the Tech Belt Initiative.

We hope we have what it takes!


Blogger D. Lambert said...

I'm not convinced this has to be an "us vs. them" contest. I consider any economic growth in Ohio at all to be a good thing -- high-tech growth especially so. However...

Geographically, the stretch of highway from Cleveland to Pittsburgh is comparable in length to 101 from San Jose to San Francisco, but while Silicon Valley had strong educational anchors in the center of its growth, this new corridor is weighted towards the ends (especially the C-M end). This stretch of road is also quite a bit more sparse than 101 in Silicon Valley, though you'd expect that to change with economic growth along the new corridor.

It's also interesting to consider the idea of externally-stimulating the growth of a high-tech corridor that spans a state line. The most successful "artificially-grown" high-tech area has to be Research Triangle, and this area had the benefit of a smaller geographic area that's 100% contained in a single state. I hope that this new corridor's organizers are able to break through this additional political layer, but I'm not sure I'd hold my breath.

Personally, I'd love to see this effort succeed, as I believe Columbus would benefit as well, but I believe they've got a considerable challenge ahead.

September 14, 2009 at 4:39 PM  

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