Sunday, October 19, 2003

Issue 1 will help Ohio support high-tech growth

By A.G. Lafley
Guest columnist

Our Cincinnati region has potential to be a high-tech growth engine - if we choose to make it happen. In November 2000 P&G, in partnership with the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, announced creation of the Greater Cincinnati Regional Technology Initiative to accelerate economic growth and strengthen Cincinnati's high-technology business sector.

We're making progress, but more is needed. That's why I support Ohio's Third Frontier Project and State Issue 1. It will help provide funding needed to fuel dynamic, sustainable growth in jobs, wages and quality of life - now and in the future. This is a goal worth stretching for.

Why is this important?

• Technology is a growth engine. The tech sector has grown four times faster than the overall economy in the past 10 years. More than 60 percent of job growth has come from the tech sector.

• High tech firms stimulate growth throughout a regional economy - not just in the tech sector. Tech firms tend to make disproportionately higher use of services. They focus on their core, and outsource everything else. High-tech manufacturing can also drive growth.

• High tech jobs pay more - 50 to 70 percent above the private-sector average.

• High-tech employees generally have higher education levels - more associate, bachelor's and advanced degrees, and more degrees in science and engineering.

• Investment in the local education infrastructure increases - in the form of a stronger tax base, corporate grants and direct research funding at the university level.

• Quality of life goes up. Cultural and ethnic diversity increases, making a community more broadly appealing.

Can the Greater Cincinnati Region Benefit from a Focus on High-Tech Economic Growth?

Yes, absolutely. In addition to basic regional strengths such as our high concentration of corporate headquarters, we also have a strong foundation for growing technology clusters. For example:

• Factory automation. This includes machine tools, robotics, testing and measurement equipment, among other things. It's by far our largest cluster. Thirty percent of our region's growth in tech jobs has come from factory automation, which now accounts for 19 percent of our total job base in technology.

• We also have a strong and growing IT and IT services sector. Software is the biggest part of this. It's by far the fastest-growing tech segment in the region, and has accounted for 20 percent of our technology job growth in the past decade. IT also includes other businesses, such as telecom, Internet firms and service businesses.

• The region's third major strength is in bioscience. We have a robust community of life science companies in greater Cincinnati. Together, they invest more than a half-billion dollars in annual research and employ more than 7,500 people.

But to be competitive, we need a more focused and integrated plan for leveraging our strengths and marketing the greater Cincinnati region as a high-tech hub in the making. We need to choose and focus on the few high-tech clusters that can drive our growth. And we need to organize our efforts as a region to facilitate that growth.

How have we done since creating the Regional Technology Initiative?

We've done well. The Regional Technology Initiative has grown to become CincyTechUSA, which leads our regional efforts to develop Greater Cincinnati's technology sector. Over the past three years, our region has realized new technology growth, including additional pioneering researchers and leading-edge facilities, more venture capital funds, more focus on technology education in high schools and colleges, more capital to support entrepreneurial growth and, importantly, strong leadership to help shape Ohio's Third Frontier Project.

Why support the Third Frontier Project and Issue 1?

The Third Frontier Project is the state's largest economic development initiative, designed to help Ohio evolve from its traditional manufacturing economy to a more dynamic, knowledge economy with higher-paying jobs. The Third Frontier meets the challenge I laid out three years ago: it identifies the region's highest-potential opportunities, and channels efforts toward their development.

Issue 1 is the final part of the Third Frontier Project and will help speed Ohio's economic evolution by authorizing the state to issue $500 million in bonds and invest the proceeds in projects that will stimulate research and spur the creation of high-paying jobs.

P&G's leadership support of The Third Frontier Program and the Issue 1 campaign is consistent with our conviction that technology-based economic growth must be a priority for the region and for Ohio. We are actively supporting The Third Frontier Program implementation because it is strategically sound and it can help focus the state's limited resources on the most promising and actionable opportunities. P&G is supporting the Issue 1 campaign because it is an important component of The Third Frontier Program.

Just as CincyTechUSA is guiding our efforts to grow regional technology assets, the Third Frontier will provide strategic focus to the State's efforts to strengthen Ohio's economy. I am pleased that a regional call to action was only a precursor to an important statewide effort that will benefit us all.

A.G. Lafley is chairman of the board, president and chief executive of The Procter & Gamble Co.

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