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Episode 47 – Opportunities for Business and Innovation in Ohio

Site Selectors Guild
Episode 47 - Opportunities for Business and Innovation in Ohio

Rick Weddle (Site Selectors Guild): Welcome to Site Selection Matters, where we take a close look at the art and science of site selection decision-making. I’m your host Rick Weddle, president of the Site Selectors Guild. In each episode, we introduce you to leaders of the world of corporate site selection and economic development. We speak with members of the Site Selectors Guild, our economic development partners, and corporate decision-makers to provide you with deep insight into the best and next practices in our profession. In this episode, we have as our guest, Andrew Deye, vice president of Strategy for JobsOhio, the lead statewide agency for economic development and job growth in Ohio. Today, Andrew will talk with us about the role talent plays in fueling business opportunities and innovation across the state of Ohio. Please join me as we welcome Andrew Deye to Site Selection Matters.

Andrew, your title is vice president of Strategy for JobsOhio. What an interesting role that describes. Take a minute or two if you will, tell our listeners a little bit about exactly what JobsOhio is, maybe what it does.

Andrew Deye (JobsOhio): Well, Rick, thank you for the opportunity. JobsOhio is Ohio’s private economic development corporation, and like the Site Selectors Guild, we’re celebrating our tenth anniversary this year. Relative to other state economic development organizations, we’re unique in a number of ways, but let me highlight three. First, our private structure, we’re a private non-profit with a team of industry experts that support businesses with their growth projects that allows us to keep information confidential until the point of announcement. Second, we have a stable funding source. Back in 2013, a 25-year franchise of the state’s liquor enterprise was executed that provides us stable funding through ups and downs. And third, we have statewide coverage, JobsOhio operates with six regional partners, a team in Northeast Ohio, one Columbus, REDI Cincinnati, the Dayton Development Coalition, Regional Growth Partnership Northwest Ohio and Ohio Southeast. We were proud that Cincinnati was the host of the Site Selectors Guild Annual Conference in 2018, and hope you’ll continue to keep an eye on the exciting developments in Ohio.

Rick: Well, thank you, Andrew. Thanks for sharing that background on JobsOhio. I think you got my attention when you said stable funding source. I think that speaks to the leadership of the state of Ohio to have an understanding that economic development works best when you can kind of find a line and work it and stay on top of it. So, congratulations to you and the leadership of the state of Ohio for hanging there for 10 years with that stable funding source. I’m sure your partners really appreciate that too?

Andrew: Well, ultimately all projects are local, and so we think the three parts, you know, JobsOhio, our regional partner, and our local communities, and ultimately this is always about solving a client opportunity or problem, talent solutions, real estate solutions, and we look forward to continuing to serve clients this year and beyond.

Rick: Let me follow up on that, you mentioned talent. One of the most important elements of business investment and site selection decisions really is talent or talent-related. How does Ohio stand or compare today on the issue of talent? What are you doing or going to do specifically to build on your talent base and create the jobs of the future?

Andrew: Well, two years ago, our CEO, J.P. Nauseef helped launch a new state economic development strategy that was bold, that was focused on both winning now and winning in the future. We want to lead the Midwest in economic growth and obviously investing in talent is critical to achieving that aspiration. So, the way I like to explain it, Rick, is that we have a full spectrum talent and workforce strategy. And break it into maybe four parts, offense, defense, stability, and support. In terms of offense, we are always looking to attract talent from out of state. There are many boomerangs out there, people with a tie to Ohio, or living elsewhere who can be attracted back. Last year, we launched a platform called Find Your Ohio, and on there we’re driving a high volume of resume submissions so if you’re a software engineer or a data analyst sitting somewhere on the coast looking to move back, that’s a platform that helps you get connected quickly.

On defense, I would say that that’s us working with our universities, our community colleges, vocational schools, and other institutions to make sure that we’re communicating all the exciting things happening from a career perspective in the state. We want to retain more talent. Stability, we want to help expanding companies in the state do so in a stable way. That’s where our talent services program is critical. So, we can kind of be a one-stop-shop for expanding companies in the state through our talent services program. We serve up to 60 projects per year through that. And then the last, I call it support, the state continues to operate a web-based clearing house that matches companies and workers in the labor market. It is called OhioMeansJobs. And during the pandemic, JobsOhio wanted to help workers who had been displaced, reskill and restart their careers, and under the leadership of Kristy Clouse who runs our talent business, we launched Ohio To Work, and that’s focused on displaced workers. So, it is that framework of offense, defense, stability, and support.

Rick: Andrew, I have talked to a lot of people about economic development, and they’ll all focus on talent, but you had one of the more comprehensive commentaries there going through those four points, offense, defense, stability, and support. I have to believe that that’s beginning to really pay off for you?

Andrew: Well, whether it’s an existing Ohio business, expanding, or it’s a reshoring deal, or FDI, you know, any type of project, this is issue number one, and we’re putting our investments into new programs and services. We want to continue to grow our impact in this area, but coming out of the pandemic, this clearly was issue one, and still, we expect it to be.

Rick: It’s always about the people and always about talent. Andrew, everyone, nearly everybody, knows about how important Ohio has been to job creation in the country, the role it has played decade after decade after decade, what do you see now and what does your leadership see really are the jobs of the future for the state of Ohio?

Andrew: So, our strategy is focused on 10 industries. Digital transformation and technology is clearly a key theme across all those industries. And let me just maybe double-click on two ways there. One is, you know, we’re still the third-largest manufacturing state and we say we have a 3-A strategy. Additive, automation, advanced materials. We see a lot of job opportunities in these areas. On the services side, continue to see double-digit growth in both healthcare and information technology. So, no matter which of the 10 industries we’re working on, we do see that digital transformation theme across all.

Rick: Very, very interesting. Let’s dive a little deeper if we can about Ohio and business investment. Do you have some examples perhaps of major investments, technology investments that have been made or are getting underway that are really interesting for our listeners?

Andrew: Sure, so in our projects business, Ultium Cells, the battery cell plant in Northeast Ohio has gotten a lot of attention. That was over $2 billion. For solar, deploying a $900 million investment in Perrysburg, near Toledo. Andelyn Biosciences, that’s a gene therapy company in Columbus. I could go on and on. But those are economic development projects that will have long-lasting impacts. While we’re continuing to execute those, we’re also trying to make some longer-term bets, and that’s where I would mention our Innovation District initiative, Rick.

Rick: Tell me a little bit about that?

Andrew: So, in the past 12 months effectively, we’ve announced three new Innovation Districts in the state. First was the Cincinnati Innovation District, which partnered up with the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and many others. This year in 2021, we’ve announced the Cleveland Innovation District and the Columbus Innovation District, a total, when you add those three up, we’re talking about $6 billion of investment, up to $300 million from JobsOhio, and about $6 billion from private and institutional sources. So, there are kind of three parts to these initiatives, there’s the talent part, there’s the research part, and then there is the real estate component. So, 5-10 years from now, we think these investments will pay off.

Rick: So, can you unpack that a little bit more? You said talent, research, and real estate. So, these districts are actually physical areas in which these investments are being made, is that right?

Andrew: That’s right. So, in Columbus, it is on the West Campus of Ohio State University. In Cleveland, it’s in close proximity to the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve. And by harnessing the power of these anchor institutions, we’re looking to do more business development with them and around them to lift these areas.

Rick: Boy, it sounds like you are getting everybody on the same page and putting a shoulder to the wheel and working together, that is really great. Congratulations to you in that point. You say this a long term, so it’s really an investment with a 10-year horizon you’re looking at to try to see if you can really kind of grow your own strategy over time?

Andrew: That’s right. We will be like any project doing a one-year checkpoint each year, but these are sort of longer, 5, 10-year bets that we think bodes well when you look at what’s happening in IT, what’s happening in healthcare, and what’s happening in digital future generally.

Rick: Andrew, I’d like to go back…we really can’t talk about talent without talking about people. And you had talked earlier about…you know, touched a little bit on working to identify and help bring people back to Ohio who had moved away. Just talk a little bit about where you see people moving from, where they are moving to, why, and what’s Ohio and Midwestern states doing to really attract and retain and grow the talented workers from the coast or other parts of the country?

Andrew: Rick, you said it well. Many people are moving currently, in some cases, sort of fleeing the coasts, both businesses and people. And we have efforts underway to make sure companies are aware of Ohio and our value proposition. You may have seen our new campaign, it’s called Ohio is for Leaders, and there we’re in New York City and Chicago and LA and San Francisco. We’re making sure that our message is getting out in terms of what we have to offer. And as I mentioned previously, we are continuing to operate the Find Your Ohio platform that allows people to search for job opportunities here in a very streamlined way.

Rick: So, I was just watching the news the other day, and they were talking about how the talent market is tight and how there is a lot of jobs that are open and not being filled. So, how does this Finder program work to really help someone who either has lived in Ohio or might be interested in living in Ohio and wants to take a look at an opportunity?

Andrew: So, on Find Your Ohio, for example, there is a series of in-demand jobs, and depending on your skill set, you kind of click to get started, whether you are a software engineer or data analyst and you can submit your resume and we connect that with businesses that are looking and try to grow the talent pool that they’re recruiting in. So, it’s in its second year now, and we’re looking to continue to scale efforts like this to support our economic development.

Rick: Seems to me that that also would kind of keep your finger on the pulse if you will of the job demand there, it also helps people find jobs that are already in Ohio to stay in Ohio?

Andrew: That’s right. Our normal website, is our front door. You can see a lot of data and where companies have interest. The same goes with Find Your Ohio, people vote with their clicks and you can kind of monitor demand real-time.

Rick: Let me switch gears with you a little bit just to…if you could take your crystal ball and look in it right now, what do you see on the horizon for Ohio in terms of economic growth and development over the…as we come out of this pandemic which has been tough on all of us, what’s your crystal ball show for the state?

Andrew: We’re building towards an inclusive, diversified economy, and we’ve always had one of the more diverse state economies in the country across services and manufacturing. But we put special emphasis on inclusion and getting all six regions growing in a positive way. So, I think you’re going to see a more resilient economy, you’re going to see a more inclusive economy, and throughout this summer and beyond, I do think reshoring is a real opportunity for states like Ohio because we’re going to promote open, secure supply chains and where we are in the country, there’s a lot of logistical benefits to Ohio that I think we’ll see that theme strengthen over time.

Rick: And we’re learning that those supply chains are being realigned as we speak, and places that have been manufacturing production centers like Ohio have a lot of opportunity yet to be realized as those supply chains are realigned over the coming years.

Andrew: Rick, in February, we launched a study with Heartland Forward, so it is not just Ohio, but it’s all 20 sort of states in the Midwest to highlight reshoring. And again, we obviously would like to do as many of those projects within our own borders, but we funded the study and it sort of benefited the whole Midwest, because we think the Midwest writ large can be a national resource for the country.

Rick: Kind of a collective strength by pulling everything together. How did you pull all that group together? That bigger group. I mean, sometimes it is hard to get two people to agree in economic development, but to pull multiple states together, that seems to me to be a really smart idea.

Andrew: Well, credit to Heartland Forward in Bentonville, Arkansas. They published the report and promoted it, so I’ll give the credit to them.

Rick: That’s great. Andrew, you’ve really given us a lot to think about today. I think we could keep this conversation going for quite a while, but that’s really all the time that we have. So, let me pause to thanks to Andrew Deye for talking with us today on this episode of Site Selections Matters.

Andrew: Thank you, Rick. I look forward to seeing you and many of your members at the annual conference in June. Thank you again.

Rick: Thanks for listening to this episode of Site Selection Matters, and a special thanks today to Andrew Deye, vice president of Strategy for JobsOhio for helping us understand just what Ohio is doing to attract and grow business investment in jobs. What an informative discussion and one that leaves us with a great deal to think about? Again, I am Rick Weddle, president of the Site Selectors Guild. This podcast episode presents my views and the views of my guests and they do not necessarily represent the user opinions of the Site Selectors Guild or its membership. We hope you’ll subscribe to Site Selection Matters podcast on Apple Podcast, on Stitcher, or on Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. We look forward to bringing you some great discussions in the year ahead. Until next time, good day.