Wednesday, February 06, 2002

Taft's tech plan wins area praise

Move called crucial for Ohio's stature

By James McNair
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Gov. Bob Taft's proposal Tuesday to spend $1.6 billion on technology initiatives should prevent Ohio from becoming an economic dinosaur, said representatives of three groups that have stakes in the plan.

        “For the state of Ohio, it's really critical because Ohio has generally not created a statewide strategy, and the other states are rapidly moving ahead,” said Greg Hand, spokesman for the University of Cincinnati. “If we're going to stay in the game as a state, we need to put some fuel in the economic drivers.”

        Mr. Taft would put $500 million each into a seed capital fund, research centers and, if a bond issue passes, recruitment of world-class university researchers. Subject to legislative approval, the plan would span 10 years.

        Ohio, the seventh most populous state, ranked ninth in patents issued in 2000, but was beaten out by 18 other states for venture capital and 26 states for initial public offering money.

        Johnathan Holifield, executive director of CincyTechUSA, a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored technology effort, agreed that the proposal would give “tremendous impetus” to the building of the state's tech sector.

        “This represents a bold and significant step to further grow Ohio's knowledge-based economy,” Mr. Holifield said. “The package compares quite favorably with Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Indiana. It puts the state of Ohio firmly in the tech growth game.”

        While Mr. Taft has taken smaller steps to boost technology, the plan announced in his State of the State speech Tuesday represents a quantum leap.

        “The idea is one that the University of Cincinnati and the other state universities have supported for some time,” said Mr. Hand of UC. “We believe that, in recent years, we've entered a period where states are competing with other states, and states that have invested heavily in research and in their research universities have demonstrated they can derive a benefit for the entire state.”

        Dennis Sienko, head of the American Electronics Association's Midwest Council in Chicago, said the Taft plan represents a strong commitment to technology industries.

        Mr. Holifield said he expects the legislature to approve the plan.

        “They understand that tech growth is economic growth,” he said. “We have to build enthusiasm among the average Ohioan that this means an opportunity for you, not a select group of people.”


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