As published in the Cincinnati Enquirer Feb. 7, 2022.
The Cincinnati Bengals, in the last two weeks, have won more
playoff games than in the last 31 years. The University of Cincinnati Bearcats were the first non-power five conference team to compete for a national championship in the college football playoffs. And just last week, Ohio, originally a dark horse, emerged as the winner of a 40-state competition for the largest economic development project in the state’s history, not one but two Intel semi-conductor manufacturing facilities.
It is Ohio’s “why not us” year.
With all due respect to the Bengals and Bearcats, the Intel
decision is a seismic shift for Ohio. This investment affirms that Ohio’s tax structure, workforce and quality of life are exceptionally competitive. It places Ohio on the world map for high-tech research and manufacturing. Most importantly, Intel’s choice brings an entirely new industry to Ohio, a new industrial ecosystem, creating economic opportunity throughout the state and across the region. This isn’t a pebble creating ripples in the pond, Intel dropped a boulder.
Congratulations to Governor DeWine, Lt. Governor Husted and JobsOhio for attracting this investment. Kudos too, to the legislature and past gubernatorial administrations who pressed to increase the competitiveness of the Ohio tax code and improve the business climate. Their collective work set the stage for this investment to be possible.
By the numbers, the Intel project itself is beyond impressive: 3,000 new jobs with an average salary of $135,000; 7,000 construction jobs; a 3000- acre campus and $20 Billion investment. WOW!
Additionally, Intel pledge $100 million toward partnerships with educational institutions to help fill the talent pipeline with the workers needed for planned operations and research functions.
The implications of this decision are just beginning to become clear, beginning with US national security. We are experiencing problems
of being overly reliant on imported goods, especially critical goods. Reshoring this manufacturing is good for us as a nation. The number of supplier jobs that will follow Intel to be close to its manufacturing plants will be in the tens of thousands. We cannot begin to calculate the number of families positively impacted. It’s a generational change from those employed at the Intel facilities to mom-and-pop diners and small retailers with new customers.
The question now is how do we ride the wave from this boulder being dropped in the pond?
We need sites. It’s well known that this region does not have enough buildable sites to meet the needs of businesses ready to invest. State
and local leaders need to redouble efforts toward creating job-ready sites in accessible locations. These sites need not be exclusively suburban greenfields. Sites in a built environment (think Queensgate) offer great access, already-constructed streets, waterlines, and sewers, are on bus routes for workers and are in close proximity to residential opportunities and amenities that workers desire. Let’s keep pushing to bring these sites on-line and fill them with next-generation manufacturing.
We need workforce. Our colleges and universities are striving to meet the needs of the tech-based economy. Our task must be to help
support and accelerate these efforts. Locally, Kable Academy is an example of an entrepreneurial effort to train students for work in the IT field. Its demonstrating success by graduating students and increasing diversity in the talent pool. More work like this needs to be done.
We need to embrace this change. We have been focused on automotive supply, aerospace supply and the financial services sectors for years and we have done well. Now is the time to expand and embrace what’s next. For years, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has been a leader in bio and life science research and with that has come incremental change in our thinking. Companies like Workhorse and Donovan Energy have pushed our thinking on the green economy, and we’ve seen incremental change. Now is the time to fully embrace the new economy. We are high-tech, we are life science, we are sustainable. It’s not tomorrow, it’s today. While we need to honor our past and maintain the strong industries that have brought is this far, let’s all fully embrace the University of Cincinnati’s mantra: Next Lives Here.
We need ambassadors. As Midwesterners, we are born modest and trained to keep our collective heads down and keep working. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with our regional assets, promote our them and our successes on social media. Invite your friends and work associates to visit. Help build upon the momentum. Our work is paying off. We are winning.
In winning we are answering the question “why not us?” It is not Austin. It is not San Francisco. It is not Nashville (especially this past Saturday). It is us! Now let’s take the ball and run with it, just like our Bearcats and Bengals.
Doug Moormann is the Vice President of Development
Strategies Group an economic development consulting firm in Cincinnati.