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The metro brand: how three cities are touting their strengths

Dayton's Techtown. Photos submitted and by Ben French
Dayton's Techtown. Photos submitted and by Ben French

Every community has strengths it promotes to entice new businesses or persuade new residents to set down roots. At the risk of leaving out a number of other worthy communities, hiVelocity talked to three. 

The "Wright" Stuff

As the "Birthplace of Flight" and home to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton is a significant player in the aerospace and defense industries. As a U.S. HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone), the city offers incentives for companies that conduct business with the federal government. Add to that a 1.5-trillion-gallon aquifer -- a key advantage over locations where water is less abundant and more expensive -- and it's easy to see why Dayton attracts business.

"There is always some degree of competition [among Ohio major cities] to attract new jobs and investment," says Keith Klein, Senior Development Specialist for the Dayton Office of Economic Development. "The bottom line is that our core cities are a huge part of Ohio's economic engine, so any win for Ohio is good for Dayton."

Dayton has much to show for its efforts: In November, GE Aviation announced plans to build a $51 million research center near the University of Dayton; the federal government recently allocated $11 million in New Market Tax Credits to CityWide Development Corporation to help leverage new projects; and the Greater Downtown Plan, which provides vision for long-range development, has helped to draw companies to the central business district.

The Entrepreneur Center at Tech Town, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, is host to a wide range of companies and new high-tech jobs. The third building at Tech Town is now under construction, and the flagship building, the Creative Technology Accelerator, is fully leased.

"The biggest misconception about Dayton is that we are still just another automotive town. Dayton's economy has diversified into a wide range of sectors including aerospace, health care, IT, and sensor technology. Some of our companies, which once focused on automotive work, now make everything from precision medical instruments to unique components for smart bombs and humvees," says Klein.

"All aboard" the Colum-bus

Twenty-seven colleges and universities (with a total enrollment of more than 120,000), a low cost of doing business, and a healthy private- and public-sector partnership make Columbus a good choice for business. The area also offers top-notch research capabilities, anchored by The Ohio State University, Battelle Memorial Institute, and a robust health-care community. And Columbus lays claim to the country's number-one-ranked zoo, library and science museum.

As for competition from Ohio's other metropolitan areas, Dan Williamson, the mayor's spokesman, says, "We all compete in the global economy for jobs and investment." Success, according to Williamson, is measured in terms of jobs and investments, and OSU Project One, CODA, La Senza, Huntington, Coca-Cola, Nationwide Insurance, and Resource Interactive are some recent examples of entities that have added jobs, moved operations to Columbus or have plans to expand there.

The city recently offered incentives to International Technical Coating, Inc., a large producer of wire mesh shelving. The company will invest $17 million and bring 120 new full-time jobs to the former Techneglas site on the city's south side. The administration has proposed a Jobs Creation Tax Credit of 65 percent for six years and a Jobs Growth Incentive of 25 percent for five years.

The one million square feet of industrial and office space is being transformed into a mixed-use complex of commercial office, retail and light industrial space with potential employment of over 1,500.

Lio Energy Systems Holdings LLC -- a global joint venture with Lishen Power Battery and CODA Automotive -- is planning to relocate production to Columbus. The company is investing $657 million and plans to create 1,000 jobs. Lishen is a global supplier of cells and batteries for cell phones, laptops and e-bikes.

CODA designs and manufactures electric vehicles, as well as lithium-ion batteries. The battery systems will be produced primarily for use in the CODA all-electric sedan. The administration proposed granting an Enterprise Zone Incentive of 75 percent for 10 years, a Jobs Creation Tax Credit of 65 percent for 12 years, and a Jobs Growth Incentive of 35 percent for eight years.

Don't "Mistake" the City on the Lake

"The Best Location in the Nation" prides itself on its access to markets. The 16-county Cleveland region, centrally located between New York and Chicago, offers access to multiple low-cost means of transporting goods via air, rail, interstates, highways, ports and waterways, which provide access to Canada and Europe via the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

"We have the people, the business base, a thriving customer base, low operating costs, college support and research and development capabilities to help make any business successful," says Jenny Febbo, VP Marketing, Team Northeast Ohio. The organization's focus is the Greater Cleveland, but "a win by any of our sister-city regions is a win for all of us," she explains.

Sixty percent of all US manufacturing facilities, 44 percent of US households, 43 percent of US and Canadian populations, 45 percent of US effective buying income, and 56 percent of Fortune 500 U.S. headquarters are located within 500 miles of Cleveland.

The Cleveland/Akron area boasts two commercial airports -- Cleveland Hopkins International and Akron Canton -- two million skilled workers, 29 colleges and universities, and the 12th largest regional economy in the nation.

Cleveland's University Circle, one square mile of art and cultural institutions, is home to the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Western Reserve Historical Society, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

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