OHIO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE Study: Manufacturing sector needs help

The state needs to support entrepreneurs and small businesses, the study says.
COLUMBUS -- Ohio needs to add innovation-based activities to help the manufacturing sector of the state's economy and should consider expanding support for entrepreneurship and small businesses in the state.
Those are a couple of findings of a report commissioned by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
"We have got to have more focus as a state," Andrew Doehrel, chamber president and chief executive officer, said Wednesday after the report's release.
Doehrel said the chamber, the state's largest business-advocacy group, plans to meet with state officials and state lawmakers in the coming weeks to press their priorities, using the report as a guide for discussion.
The chamber-funded study, conducted by Arlington, Va.-based SRI International, said Ohio should identify growth-oriented activities and new forms of manufacturing to help the state move toward more of a high technology-based economy.
According to news reports, manufacturing jobs represent nearly 16 percent of employment in Ohio compared with 11 percent nationally.
The report also said the state needs to provide support for entrepreneurs and small businesses, which it said are often innovators.
The report also said the state should seek to nurture what it called "anchors for innovation" by encouraging regions, cities and universities to develop their own unique attributes rather than by trying to be all things to all people.
"If strategies and missions are streamlined, resources can be concentrated to create world-class advantages," the report said.
John A. Mathieson, director of SRI International's Center for Science, Technology and Economic Development and an author of the report, said the state could explore helping the manufacturing sector develop so-called "high-tech" niches such as fuel-cell manufacturing and advanced materials to reinvigorate the state economy.
Mathieson said the biomedical field could be another high-tech area where the state could excel.
"It can be an offshoot of what you currently have," Mathieson said. "Build on what you've got."
To help spur entrepreneurship, the report suggests the state examine regulatory and tax policies and assistance programs to help entrepreneurs be competitive.
The report noted what it called a low corporate income tax burden, relatively low sales tax burden, and competitive real estate taxes in key metropolitan areas of Ohio.
But the report also said the state suffered from what it said was high personal-income taxes and a high overall tax burden based on taxes from multiple jurisdictions.
The study sought to create benchmarks for Ohio compared to other states in key areas including: human resources, financial resources, innovation resources, infrastructure, business costs, government and regulatory environment, globalization & amp; dynamism and quality of life.
According to the report, Ohio fared well in infrastructure, which included access in the state to high-speed Internet, airline service and road condition, ranking third of 50 states.
Ohio also fared relatively well in innovation resources, which included the number of research universities in a state, ranking ninth of 50 states, according to the report.
Ohio's lowest rankings in the report came in government & amp; regulatory environment and business costs, ranking 35th and 37th, respectively.
Republican Gov. Bob Taft is expected to unveil a proposal to reform the state's business and personal income taxes in the two-year executive state budget proposal he presents to the GOP-led Legislature early this year.
The current, two-year $48 billion state budget runs through June 30. Under state law, a new state spending plan must be in place by July 1.
Additionally, the Taft administration has said it is exploring the possibility of proposing another bond issue connected to the governor's Third Frontier effort to boost high-tech employment in Ohio. The governor has said he's exploring a potential November 2005 ballot issue.
Voters statewide rejected a Third Frontier bond issue in 2003.

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