Friday, July 14, 2000

Butler seeks plan to lure tech firms

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — If Butler County wants to attract a lot of high-tech businesses, it must have a well-educated, highly skilled labor force and a good telecommunications fiber-optic cable system.

        That was the message Ross DeVol, an official from a California think tank, delivered Thursday to county commissioners.

        “A strong labor force and fiber optics are the two most important things high-tech industries are looking for,” said Mr. DeVol, director of regional and demographic studies at the Milken Institute in Santa Monica, Calif.

        The county is paying $300,000 to the institute to devise and execute an economic development plan for luring high-tech industries.

        Mr. DeVol is in Hamilton this week to meet with county officials for the first time since the commissioners approved the two-year contract with Milken last month.

        Butler County, like the Midwest, lags behind the rest of the country in high-tech industrial development, Mr. DeVol said.

        High-tech businesses account for 10 percent of the national economy, while they make up less than half of 1 percent of Butler County's economy, Mr. DeVol said.

        County officials can work with Miami University and other area educational institutions to develop programs to train people to work in high-tech industries, he said.

        Commissioner Mike Fox said the county could work with the private sector to finance a proposed fiber-optic cable system that will cost about $4 million.

        Milken will complete by February an assessment of the county's strengths and weaknesses. The institute will complete a strategic plan six months later and will begin to implement the plan by late next year.

        Butler County is in a good position to lure high-tech industries because it's already perceived as a good business climate, Mr. DeVol said.

        A recent study by Forbes magazine and Milken ranked the Hamilton-Middletown area No. 74 on its national Best Places 2000 list. Butler was the only Ohio metropolitan area in the top 100.


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