President Roderick J. McDavis

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Third Frontier leverages the strengths of many for the benefit of all

The following is an op-ed piece from Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis on Third Frontier funding:

As president of Ohio University, situated in one of the state's poorest counties, I have seen firsthand how Third Frontier funding has contributed to the Athens economy. Similar stories are being told across the state.

Since its inception in 2002, the Third Frontier program has invested $681 million to lay the foundation for the creation, retention and growth of technology-based jobs and businesses, and has attracted more than $3.2 billion in additional investments from public and private sources.

Those investments are paying off, spurring 571 new companies and allowing many existing companies to expand. Together, they have produced more than 48,000 jobs and stimulated $6.6 billion in economic activity throughout Ohio.

These are remarkable statistics in an otherwise bleak financial landscape that Ohioans should consider when voting on the renewal of Issue 1 on May 4. Issue 1 would authorize the state of Ohio to issue up to $700 million in bonds to renew and continue funding programs for tech-based research and development in support of Ohio industry, commerce and business.

A very important part of Ohio University's mission is to lift up the southeast Ohio region through the transfer of the talents and creativity of our researchers and scholars into industrial innovations that create jobs. Ohio's Third Frontier program provides critical support for our efforts in this area.

At Ohio University, the Entrepreneurial Signature Program (ESP) is funded by the Third Frontier and is implemented through our Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs as TechGROWTH Ohio. TechGROWTH has had contact with more than 1,900 companies, and 277 have qualified for assistance. It has generated more than $26.7 million in resources from the Third Frontier's initial investment of $4.025 million. There are currently 160 active companies working with TechGROWTH, as well as seven Ohio colleges and universities.

One of the biggest benefits of the Third Frontier program is that it is firmly rooted in our great state: research and development are conducted by Ohioans, jobs and new companies are created here, and venture capital is invested throughout the state. In fact, total venture-capital investment in Ohio grew by more than 13 percent per year from 2003 to 2008 with the help of the Third Frontier initiative – more than double the annual growth rate of total U.S. venture capital investment for the same timeframe.

With Third Frontier funding, Ohio also is developing highly skilled and globally competitive workers who not only contribute to our economy, but attract similar world-class researchers and innovators to our state. The same can be said for many of the start-up companies helped by Third Frontier resources – many have grown to become nationally or globally renowned, and are still growing.

To compete for jobs, investments and economic development, Ohio must create and nurture a climate of innovation. We must embrace and stimulate world-class research and development, and retain the best students, teachers and researchers. The Third Frontier program links our state's many great colleges and universities with regional and statewide economic development, leveraging the strengths of many for the benefit of all.