Monday, July 21, 2003

Cincinnati needs Convergys to stay

By Johnathan M. Holifield
Guest columnist

Having read and heard many media accounts of what some are calling the "Convergys Deal," I am disappointed with the exclusive focus on the costs of the proposed investment. Make no mistake, the costs demand serious civic and political deliberation.

However, equally meritorious - and worthy of Cincinnati's consideration - are the high-impact, high-wage technology growth opportunities that our city can achieve by retaining Convergys. The greatest of which is the enhanced opportunity to win major technology-based economic development investment from Ohio's historic Third Frontier Project.

With the Third Frontier Project, the state of Ohio has opened an unprecedented window of opportunity. The 10-year, $1.6 billion, technology growth stimulus package incents collaboration among government, business, education and research institutions to catalyze technology-based economic growth in Ohio. The Third Frontier Project is designed to increase Ohio's ability to compete in important technology sectors of the global economy.

The Third Frontier Project represents Ohio's drive to upgrade its position in the knowledge economy. It is the state's largest commitment ever to expanding high-tech research and commercial application capabilities. Moreover, when combined with federal and private-sector support, the Third Frontier Project can generate more than $6 billion, leading to more high-paying jobs in our state.

For the latter half of the 20th Century, the state of Ohio heavily incented industrial growth. Ohio's major industrial assets were largely located in the northeast quadrant (Cleveland area) of the state. Now, for the first time, a substantial portion of Cincinnati's economic base is squarely aligned with our state's leading economic growth plan. Specifically, in Convergys, Cincinnati has one of Ohio's premier information technology (IT) companies. IT is one of five technology growth clusters in which Ohio will invest $1.6 billion over the next 10 years.

Convergys' presence substantially helps Cincinnati in relation to the Third Frontier Project and affords new opportunities to create innovative collaborative projects to accelerate IT growth and - very importantly - achieve a fair return of our Ohio tax dollars.

Simply put, Cincinnati must connect efforts to obtain an equitable share of Third Frontier Project investment to its leading business, education and research assets. In the IT sector, Convergys is Cincinnati's leading asset.

Convergys has demonstrated its commitment to Cincinnati technology growth. For example, Convergys has:

• Invested $5 million in the Tri-State Growth Capital Fund to spur technology entrepreneurship and investments.

• Invested considerably in regional and technology-based economic development initiatives and programs.

• Worked closely with Gov. Bob Taft, through the Ohio Business Roundtable, to shape Third Frontier Project strategies.

Cincinnati is one of only two Ohio cities boasting a Fortune 500 IT company through which to connect with the state's Third Frontier Project. In sum, Convergys is a unique business asset that is lined up with unique, unprecedented state economic growth opportunities.

CincyTechUSA encourages the city of Cincinnati to work with its leading IT asset - Convergys - to create innovative, IT growth collaborations among government, business, education and research institutions to grow the IT sector of Cincinnati's economy.

Over the next 10 years, through major technology growth assets like Convergys, University of Cincinnati, Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati Children's Hospital and others, the Cincinnati economy has an opportunity to gain hundreds of millions of dollars of Third Frontier investment.

Winning our share of these state investment dollars is a favorable return on the investment that Cincinnati is being asked to make today.


Johnathan M. Holifield is executive director of CincyTechUSA (www.cincytechusa.com)

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