Sunday, September 07, 2008

buckeye innovation zones (biz)

This week, the Ohio Department of Development released its Strategic Plan, full of lots of pretty pictures and some policy recommendations.

One of the report's various proposals is to create at least 12 of what the OhDoD is calling Ohio Hubs of Innovation and Prosperity (or OHIO, chuckle) - with one in downtown Youngstown.

from the 108-page report, which can be found here:
"Our Ohio Hubs of Innovation and Opportunity program will leverage our regional strengths to facilitate and catalyze the creation of at least 12 regionally designated places where knowledge and place-based assets intersect; places where innovation will flourish and places where opportunity will be generated. We will offer targeted resources to renew physical space and foster new business investment in each OHIO Hub."
So what might these OHIO Hubs look like?

Youngstown can look right at our neighbors for some answers, as Pennsylvania offers a similar program, the Keystone Innovation Zones (KIZ), through its Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).

More can be found on the PA KIZ Program here, so while the Ohio version may be different, here are some of its main components:
Each zone is area contiguous to an institution of higher education, linked to other economic development partners/organizations such as private businesses, business support organizations, commercial lending institutions, venture capital companies, angel investor networks or foundations.

Innovation Grants are provided to institutions of higher education to facilitate technology transfer, including patent filings, licensing, intellectual property, royalty agreements and other designated resource needs. Grants may not exceed $250,000 per year and the program is supported for three fiscal years.

Planning Grants provide seed funding to KIZ Partnerships that may not meet the criteria for Zone certification, but would benefit from additional planning and development of their application. Generally awards are $25,000 to support a follow on full KIZ application.

Operations Grants support each Zone's Coordinator for administrative costs incurred in establishing and implementing the keystone innovation zone. Grants will not exceed $250,000 and will be reduced in subsequent years by 25%, 50%, and finally 75%.

Tax Credits can be offered to a KIZ company (as designated) to claim a credit equal to 50% of the increase in the KIZ company’s gross revenues. The credit will not exceed $100,000 annually.
so while according to the report, the OHIO Hubs won't be operational until two to four years from now, what can Youngstown do to prepare?

1 - look across the border to what works and what doesn't for success, since Pennsylvania has 29 of these zones. Check the KIZ zones list here, and contact at least the close ones located in Oil City, two in Pittsburgh, Erie, Beaver Falls, and Johnstown and discuss best practices.

2 - Start pushing and marketing downtown youngstown NOW as the place to be for technology companies to locate in the region. Proximity and density is key.

3 - Similar to the WIRED Nation created by forward thinkers in some of the country's WIRED regions through the Dept. of Labor, a similar site can be constructed to link Ohio's Hubs and share best practices with each other.

While more programs exist in Ohio's most recent Strategic Plan, now is the time to start strategizing as a region about next steps.

- - -

as a side note, an interesting and revealing critique of the Strategic Plan's goals can be found here at NullSpace.
" goal is for Ohio to achieve job growth at a rate 25% above any of its neighboring states. Those would include Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and well, you know. In fact the lead measures (see page 6) are all defined by just doing better than those other 4 states and Pennsylvania.

Should those really be the goals for any state? I suppose Ohio could achieve that if things just went to hell in a handbasket in those bordering states, Pennsylvania included. Would that really be success? Not exactly a mega-regional view of economic development in that."

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