Support Issue 1, the Renewal of 3rd Frontier Investment, On May 4th

“The Third Frontier” is an overly dramatic name for dedicated state funds, $1.6 billion worth, that can help move Ohio forward and grow, investing in promising technical fields that require critical research support and patient investment for development, but also have extraordinary promise.  The program’s renewal, state issue one, is heading for a vote on the May ballot and deserves your support.  The return on the state investment is so pronounced that elected officials, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, scientists, researchers and academics are all tripping over each other to endorse it.

The funds would renew the current 10-year, $1.4 billion program, helping to transition Ohio's economy from rustbelt to high technology. The program targets existing manufacturers for improved productivity and innovation, and building on research and technology strengths for commercialization and, ideally, employment and economic growth.  

While I still don’t like the 2007 decision to divert tobacco settlement payments, money dedicated to health programs, the money has been well-spent.  Auditors credit the funds with:

  • Creating 41,300 good-paying jobs to help Ohio nurture a commitment to innovation;
  • Generating $6.6 billion in economic activity statewide, through its $681 million in investments through 2008; and
  • Leading to the creation of 570 companies, either spun out of the university funds, or receiving money from universities, development groups or venture capital funds.

If voters approve the May vote, the renewal would supply about $175 million a year starting in 2012. The program deserves the faith and confidence of voters.  With government cynicism at an all-time high, this program relies on objective, outside reviewers for grant making, targeting resources on projects with the greatest economic potential.  

The program has been great news for Ohio’s strong research universities.  Approximately 40% of the nearly $1 billion in grants were awarded to universities, health institutions, businesses and development groups in Northeast Ohio. The program rewards collaboration, seeking to move high-tech research and development into marketed products.   This renewal can support some of Ohio's most promising industries, often among the most competitive industries nationwide, including biomedical imaging, liquid crystals/flexible displays, fuel cells and photovoltaics.

Voters should support issue one on May 4th, a valuable program; even if it’s got a title that sounds like it’s from a Star Trek movie.