America Makes Is Model for Innovation Investments: Report

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A new report calling on Ohio to establish four statewide innovations hubs cites America Makes in Youngstown and an initiative at  Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown as examples that would benefit the entire state if scaled up.

The Ohio Bold report, prepared for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation, was drafted by TEConomy Partners LLC, a Columbus firm that provides research, analysis and strategy for innovation-based economic development.

Even with the state’s development incentives, innovation, tax incentives and regulatory reforms, “The speed of technological advancements requires Ohio to embrace a new paradigm,” the report’s authors warn.

“Ohio should create four statewide innovation hubs that address the full innovation ecosystem of needs by advancing and deploying cutting-edge innovation within the opportunity platforms,” the report said. “Ohio already is home to several successful initiatives that would benefit the entire state if scaled up.”

Examples of these initiatives include America Makes, a hub focused on additive manufacturing launched in 2012, and the Research, Entrepreneurship, Discovery and Innovation Zone – or REDIzone –  at NEOMED in Rootstown.

While Ohio has been hailed as a pioneer in innovation-based economic development with initiatives such as the Thomas Edison, Third Frontier and JobsOhio programs, its economic competitive strength was being eroded by “changing economic drivers,” according to the reports. Those drivers include outsourcing, declining real-collar investment in domestic research and development, and “a new breed of technology-savvy global competitors.”

The impact can be seen in the state’s gross domestic product. Growth in Ohio’s private-sector from 1991 to 2016 was 6.7%, compared with the national annual average GDP growth rate of 8.8%

The report’s conclusions are “data driven” and reinforce the sense that even though Ohio has strong programs in place, it isn’t keeping up with other states, said Barb Ewing, CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator, who contributed to the report. “In terms of our overall economic climate we’ve always generally felt this really offers the data to substantiate what is going on behind it,” she said.

Prepared in partnership with chambers of commerce, including the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, the Ohio Bold report “creates a blueprint for success in accelerating Ohio’s economy.” Its authors call for Ohio to “embrace the increasing role that both innovation and technological convergence will play across economic sectors.”

The report calls for aligning the state’s innovation investments to focus not only on industry clusters but on four “transformational innovation platforms” that are impacting Ohio’s key industry drivers: next-generation manufacturing and materials, health care, smart infrastructure and data analytics.

Although the cost of implementing the blueprint is “quite significant,” the price of not investing is even higher, the report warns. Funding could come from existing revenue streams including the research and development bond fund that has provided funding for Third Frontier for more than a decade, proceeds from liquor sales and federal workforce dollars, as well as private capital investment.

The nest step is education, particularly with the statewide election approaching, Ewing said. Both major candidates for governor and their political parties as well as other officials need to be made aware of the report and its value. Advocates also need to work with state legislators to garner support for the initiative, she said.

Click here to view the full report.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.