A new “innovation hub” anchored by Dayton-area innovators can pay dividends, the chief executive of the Dayton Development Coalition told Ohio leaders as they visited National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Wednesday.
“An innovation hub anchored at Wright-Patt can accelerate the region’s economic growth and pace of scientific discovery,” Jeff Hoagland, coalition president and CEO told Gov. Mike DeWine and fellow state leaders who visited the museum to talk about their vision for innovation hubs in Ohio. “I pledge to work with you and your team to make sure this happens.”
In his State-of-the-State address this week, DeWine announced an investment of $150 million to create innovation hubs across Ohio to spark economic development and growth, modeled on the “innovation districts” that were drawn around the state’s trio of “big C” cities, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, in DeWine’s first term.
The same idea will be at work for the hubs, giving Dayton, Akron, Toledo and other communities a chance to compete for state dollars.
“These hubs will bring together each community’s strengths to encourage more economic development and attract the very best talent,” the governor said Tuesday.
Left unclear for now are clues as to how much each hub city can receive in funds and what guidelines they must meet to earn those funds.
Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik, also at the museum Wednesday, called the announcement the start of a “process,” and those involved asked residents to urge their local legislators to back the plan.
“We’re looking forward to engaging with the General Assembly on the proposal,” Mihalik said.
Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted offered some hints as to what state leaders are looking for, however. They will want to see communities sharpen their focus on passing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills, conduct meaningful research and more.
“Are you focusing on things that are world-class in development?” Husted said. “Do you have private-sector collaborators who can bring it to market, whether those are entrepreneurs or existing companies? All of those are critical elements in innovation districts and will be in innovation hubs.”
While DeWine and Husted said they had no wish to pre-judge the process, the presence of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton would seem to give this community at least a leg up in whatever process is created. The base is home to some of the most important missions in equipping and arming the Air Force, drawing an array of private companies that want to be a part of that.
Hoagland noted that before the 2005 BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) process, about 19,000 people worked at Wright-Patterson, while today that number is closer to 33,000, both uniformed and civilian employees. The base is the largest employer in the state of Ohio in one location.
“Dayton should be very, very competitive,” DeWine said.
DeWine said he expects keen competition for innovation hub dollars, but he added: “The ultimate results will be the betterment of the people.”