Thursday, March 07, 2002

Health tech seen key to Butler

New Economy depends on combining assets

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Butler County's most promising future in the New Economy appears to lie in the area of health science technology, an economic expert told county business and community leaders Wednesday.

        Combining three business strengths of Butler — university technology, health sciences and metal/steel fabrication — can help the county become one of the magnets for high-tech companies involved in the design and manufacture of medical devices, said Richard Seline, founder of New Economy Strategies in Washington, D.C.

        “I'm not talking about prosthetics and wheelchairs,” he said. “I'm talking about a whole new set of medical devices that are emerging.”

        Mr. Seline was the featured speaker at the luncheon at Miami University's Hamilton campus for about 90 business and community leaders invited by county commissioners.

        Butler is paying the Milken Institute, a California economic think tank, to plan a strategy for attracting high-tech businesses to the county.

        The commissioners have led the effort to help the county transform its economy from a smokestacktohigh tech. But Mr. Seline said that the time has come for people in the private sector and the universities to take over the leadership of this effort.

        “There's a role for every one of you,” he told the audience. “There's never been a successful business effort of this kind driven only by the public sector. You must launch a leadership coalition.”

        To succeed, Butler County needs to think in regional terms and collaborate with communitiesthey may have been competing with, Mr. Seline said.

        “You must act locally and think globally,” he said. “The only way to compete globally is to collaborate locally.”

        Mr. Seline said Butler's key challenges are to capitalize on its proximity to Cincinnati and Dayton, try to be the home for Procter & Gamble spinoff businesses, become more of a boardroom community and less of a bedroom community, and link traditional industries with new ones, such as biotech businesses.

        Commissioner Courtney Combs said Butler County is at a crucial stage in its economic development plan.

        “We feel we're on the verge of another spurt of growth in this county,” he said. “We need to take the next step to improve our economy and quality of life.”



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