Sunday, January 25, 2004

Third Frontier's three-legged plan
two-thirds funded


Issue 1's failure undermined bridge from construction to job creatio

By John Byczkowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

STATE OF THE STATE

Taft sticks with high-tech goal
Third Frontier's three-legged plan two-thirds funded
The real State of Ohio
Third Frontier Project Awards

As outlined by Gov. Bob Taft, the Third Frontier program is a 10-year initiative to create technology businesses and jobs in Ohio. It has three primary legs; two are funded.

• The capital plan. A pool of $500 million is assigned to build and equip Wright Centers of Innovation around the state, each with a different technological thrust. These include the Wright Center of Innovation for Advanced Data Management in Dayton and the Power Partnership of Ohio in Cleveland, focusing on fuel cells. In all, six centers have been funded.

• Consolidation of existing programs. This involved taking $500 million from operating programs and bringing them under the Third Frontier umbrella. One such program is the $350 million Biomedical Research and Technology Transfer Trust Fund, which uses money from the 1997 National Tobacco Settlement. Ohio will get a $10.1 billion over 25 years from the settlement. Another $150 million comes from the Third Frontier Action Fund to provide venture capital for fledgling companies. Also, the $100 million Innovation Ohio Loan Fund lends money to high-tech companies for equipment.

• The missing link. Third Frontier's final big leg was critical because it was to provide the bridge from erecting buildings to producing jobs. Issue 1's 10-year, $500 million bonds would have funded operations of the non-biomedical Wright Centers, including the hiring of researchers. It also would have paid for commercialization of the research produced by the Wright Centers, turning concepts into products that, in theory, Ohio workers would produce.

The state already has spent more than $200 million to kick-start Third Frontier. Those investments include $25.2 million for the Center for Computational Medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and $9 million for the University of Cincinnati Genome Research Institute. Both are aimed at turning genetic research into products and practices that will save lives and create jobs.

Because they're in the biomedicine field, the two Cincinnati centers have more secure funding than those in propulsion or information technology. Funding for non-biomedical centers was to come from Issue 1 bonds.

E-mail johnb@enquirer.com.




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