Technology funding will revive the state's economy, a business consortium says.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- A nonprofit consortium that promotes high-technology economic development says it's backing Gov. Bob Taft's Third Frontier Project, a plan to boost technology-related jobs in Ohio.
The consortium, E3 Ohio, says Taft's plan is a chance to invest in the state's future.
"It is a major investment," Michael A. Petrecca, E3's chairman, said Monday. "It will serve as the catalyst to transform Ohio's economy." The Third Frontier program is Republican Taft's 10-year plan that brings together business and universities for high-tech research and jobs.
The Republican-controlled House and Senate are to consider legislation to place on the November ballot a $500 million bond issue related to the Third Frontier.
And just last year, the Legislature passed a $1.27 billion capital appropriations measure that contained $50 million for the Third Frontier plan.
Bahman Taheri, chief executive officer of Kent-based AlphaMicron, a high-tech firm that is working on liquid-crystal technology, said efforts such as the Third Frontier plan will expand the pool of entrepreneur funding beyond venture capital.
AlphaMicron, which has 15 employees, received a $1.2 million grant through the state's Technology Action Fund to develop liquid-crystal technology for the U.S. Air Force to use in pilot visors.
The product is still in development, Taheri said.
David Millhorn, director of the Genome Research Institute at the University of Cincinnati, said he thinks the Third Frontier Project will help assemble the researchers needed to make advancements in various fields.
Jon Foreman, marketing director for NexTech Materials in Columbus, said his company, one of the first to receive state funding to stimulate fuel-cell research and design, thinks the program will help raise Ohio's visibility among high-tech companies.
Fuel cells are touted as an alternative, renewable power source for automobiles, laptop computers and homes. The company received a $640,000 low-interest state loan plus various tax credits to help it expand.
In his two-year, $49.1 billion executive budget pending before the Legislature, the governor proposes to spend about $40 million over the next two years on advanced technology projects.
As part of their deliberations on the next state budget, which must be in place by July 1, state lawmakers will be considering various ways to plug a shortfall of as much as $4 billion.