Mile Two goes the extra mile in Dayton’s ‘Innovation District’

$95K JobsOhio grant fuels new cognitive systems ‘boot camp’

Dayton’s Mile Two LLC has been an integral part of the region’s rapidly evolving innovation ecosystem since 2015.

Today, fueled by JobsOhio and Montgomery County ED/GE grants, the company’s role downtown — and well beyond — is only growing.

In October, the developer of software and apps signed a five-year lease to occupy 21,000 square feet at Tech Town’s 711 E. Monument Ave. The company is taking two floors in Tech Town’s Building 2.

The location will serve as collaboration space for Mile Two and its partners at the Air Force SBIR/STTR (Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer) program. The latter is a $650 million effort to find private technologies among businesses and to share Air Force technologies ripe for commercialization.

Late last year Woodard Development also announced that Mile Two committed to taking at least two floors in the six-floor, 55,000-square-foot building at 601 E. Third St., which will be re-branded as “The Manhattan,” a nod to Dayton’s role in the Manhattan Project. (The building was known as the J.K. McIntire building.)

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Mile Two has grown from three employees in what is known as the “444 building” on East Second Street four years ago to more than 60 employees today. That number will only grow, said Jeff Graley, the company’s founder and president.

Next up: Mile Two is planning a “cognitive systems boot camp” early this year for its employees, taught by retired Ohio State University integrated systems engineering professor Dave Woods, a former advisor to Alex Morison, Mile Two’s chief science officer.

Fueled by a $95,000 JobsOhio grant, the first iteration of the short course will be internal to Mile Two employees, offering them a grounding in the art of connecting human beings to complex systems, such as nuclear power plants, chemical processing plants, air traffic control operations, the cyber-security domain and more.

“The point of it is for us to get our designers and software engineers a common base of concepts and understanding, some common language and lexicon, to help them better connect and cooperate,” Morison said. “That’s our first goal.”

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“We think that’s going to have an impact across a whole bunch of industries,” Graley said.

The grant isn’t the only shot in the arm Mile Two has received. Montgomery County commissioners recently approved a $100,000 ED/GE (Economic Development/Government Equity) grant to help the company move into The Manhattan.

Graley, who will be 42 this month, is a former Air Force officer and a veteran of the Air Force Research Lab who started Mile Two to work for and with the Air Force.

He isn’t sure what the ceiling is on Mile Two’s possible growth — or if there is a ceiling. He has employees commuting from Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis and beyond. One employee lives in Alabama.

“We absolutely could do this on the coasts, if you chose to,” he said. “But I don’t think that’s necessary at this point. Ohio and the Midwest have built a lot of the infrastructure, and it has continued to improve that, to allow these kinds of things to happen here. And I think that’s super cool. That’s something we wanted to be a part of.”

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