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Ohio's R & D frontier spawns jobs, innovation and visibility

As manufacturing and economic factors wax and wane, the Midwest states have had to take a hard look at their ability to adapt. Ohio is no exception, particularly considering the loss of more than 200,000 traditional manufacturing jobs across the state between 2003 and 2012 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

In order for the Buckeye State to combat that trend and stay competitive by attracting new, high-paying jobs and skilled labor, public and private entities must collaborate to bring the industries of tomorrow to Ohio today.
It all adds up to the impetus behind Ohio Third Frontier’s Industrial Research Development Center Program (IRDCP). By offering to chip in state funds, IRDCP endeavors to attract large, high quality, national and highly visible research and development centers to the state.
“The IRDCP was designed for us to incentivize the attraction of major research and development center activities,” explains Norm Chagnon, Deputy Chief of Technology Investments at the Ohio Development Services Agency. “We are very much looking for national scale centers of excellence that are either supported by the federal government or represent investments by private companies in their own research and development centers.”

The results are coming to fruition across the state. Whether they play out in Ohio's smaller towns such as Findlay or Rust Belt cities looking to make a comeback like Youngstown, the show-of-faith funding from Ohio Third Frontier’s IRDCP can make all the difference when it comes to bringing a high-profile R&D project to fruition.

Rolling into the future, through Findlay
Cooper Tire and Rubber is the most recent Ohio-based company to discover how the IRDCP can put momentum behind a project. In February, Ohio Third Frontier awarded $2.8 million to Cooper to support its creation of a "Global Technical Center" in Findlay, where the company's North American tech center is already located.
“This is going to be a center of excellence focusing on new material technologies, sustainability, tire design and performance, predictive modeling and innovation,” explains Anne Roman, Vice President of Communications at Cooper. “This is going to be the place where all of the advanced technologies will be worked on.” Cooper will invest $40 million in the project over the next five years and expects to create 40 new full-time jobs over the next three years. Roman says the hiring has already begun, with new engineers, scientists, technicians, technical managers and chemical engineers.
Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik is especially excited over the estimated $43 million in economic impact for the area and her city's growing reputation as a high-tech town with well-paying jobs courtesy of the city's long-time partner, Cooper Tire.
“A company like Cooper investing in research and development in Northwest Ohio is absolutely incredible for us,” says Mihalik, who believes companies like Cooper are the future for a city that's transitioning from its traditional manufacturing roots. “We’re attracting talented individuals and great families to the area.”
IDRCP helps draw coveted NAMII project to Youngstown
Last August, White House officials joined Youngstown Congressman Tim Ryan to announce that the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) would be built adjacent to the Youngstown Business Incubator in collaboration with Youngstown State University's STEM school. The $70 million project is being funded by public and private entities, with $30 million coming from a federal grant. The ribbon cutting for the advanced 3D printing hub was last October, less than two months after the project's initial announcement.

The venture was made possible in part by IRDCP funds. The IDRCP committed $2.1 million in the initial proposal to the federal government in order to demonstrate the Buckeye State's commitment to the project. Lisa Camp, Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives at Case Western Reserve University, worked on the effort to draw the national project to Ohio -- along with all those federal dollars.
“[The initial investment] was a critical piece in helping us to get the federal dollars to show that the state of Ohio is supportive of the 3D printing industry in the state,” she says, noting that the NAMII facility allows companies to produce 3D printing and experiment with the technology.
“If you have a couple of small companies that want to try 3D printing but don’t know if they want to invest in it, they can go to Youngstown and see if it makes sense for them,” Camp explains. “They can see if 3D printing might be a solution for a business problem.” Camp believes the facility will catalyze job growth in the emerging 3D printing field. At least one notable American agrees.

“Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio,” said President Obama of NAMII in his 2013 State of the Union Address. “A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.”
Better quality food through innovation
In Cincinnati, Wornick Foods, a co-manufacturer of convenience foods and military rations, is also among the ranks of the Ohio Third Frontier's (OTF) Industrial Research Development program beneficiaries.
Wornick set out to establish a research and development facility focused on microwave assisted thermal sterilization (MATS) technology. MATS is an FDA approved food sterilization process that utilizes microwave heating to sterilize food, with better food quality results than traditional techniques offer. The process was created by the Washington State University Microwave Sterilization Consortium of which the Cincinnati-based company is a member.

Wornick set out to create a pilot program for the technology with the end goal of developing a product to run on production scale equipment. The company approached OTF for funding that would augment it's planned $10 million investment. Seeing promise in Wornick’s proposal, OTF provided $1.7 million in 2011 to finance the emerging technology. Vice President of Operations Michael Hyche says that has helped bridge the commercialization gap and will pave the way for a range of new, high-skilled jobs.
“Once this technology becomes fully commercialized," says Hyche of the ongoing project, "we would expect adding a range of jobs from scientific and technical jobs to help us to continue developing this novel approach. And eventually that would transition to commercial production of food products made with this process that would increase other skill set production workers in our factory."
“It’s a great program,” he says of OTF’s Industrial Research and Development Center Program. “This will really enable us to expand our business in a high-value area of the convenience food marketplace while offering new skill development for our existing and future associates.”
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