Oh-Penn Region in Center of Emerging Tech Belt
An economic development strategy taking shape in a corridor that stretches from Cleveland to Pittsburgh is unlocking tremendous potential for the five-county Oh-Penn Region.
Known as the Tech Belt Initiative, the strategy aims to take advantage of the numerous educational, government, industrial and other innovation assets to transform the economy of the overall region, which numbers more than 7.2 million people. The Oh-Penn Region, which sits squarely in the middle of the corridor, is primed to be the “buckle” of the Tech Belt.
The Oh-Penn Region has bred a number of successful technology firms. Axion Battery in New Castle, Pa., develops advanced batteries and an energy storage product based on its patented lead carbon battery technology. Sovereign Circuits in North Jackson, Ohio, makes printed circuit boards. And the region, through several public-private partnerships, has created an environment to encourage even more growth in emerging technologies.
LindenPointe: A High-Tech Home Base
In Hermitage, Pa., the 115-acre LindenPointe Park is a prime example of this emphasis on technology enterprises. Through state and federal assistance, LindenPointe has formed a private-public partnership to foster technology-oriented businesses.
In addition to a number of business tenants, LindenPointe has a campus of Butler County Community College, a training and workforce development center and soon-to-open state-of the art technical center that includes a business incubator. Businesses currently at the park employ about 100, but that is expected to swell to 500 to 1,000 workers on the campus. The actual number of businesses throughout the region benefiting from the park is much greater, says Larry Reichard, executive director of Penn-Northwest, the private company developing the park.
“The major projects at LindenPointe have had overwhelming regional support,” says Gary Gulla, Hermitage assistant city manager. “The park helps those companies on campus but also those off campus that use its resources.”
Novocell Semiconductor Inc. will be the anchor tenant in the new technical center and incubator. Novocell, which makes memory products for the semiconductor industry worldwide, has been a park tenant since 2006.
“A company like ours could locate most anywhere, but this is our home,” says Steven Warner, president and chief executive officer of Novocell.
Novocell benefits from tech firms in Pittsburgh, and Warner says he looks forward to helping new firms at the LindenPointe incubator.
Collaboration Equals Innovation at Youngstown Business Incubator
The Youngstown Business Incubator has been helping startup software firms in the region for more than a decade.
Eight companies employing 360 people are now housed at the YBI in downtown Youngstown. YBI furnishes nearly all the physical assets a new company might need, but provides something even more valuable – expertise. Tenants are required to share their information and knowledge with other tenants.
“Imagine 360 people you can count on to help with any aspect of operating your business – that’s a tremendous asset,” says Jim Crossler, YBI chief executive officer.
The tenants also have a network of businesses, educational institutions, foundations and government agencies willing to share their expertise.
Tony Deascentis, chief executive officer of via680, has been a YBI tenant with two companies over the past 10 years. His current company helps clients efficiently send and receive information over the Web.
“It is tremendously valuable to be part of a community that can help your company accelerate its growth,” Deascentis says. “With the physical needs of my business taken care of, I can channel my investments into developing my product.”
Anne Behner, president of Visual Impact Imaging, a software developer for the landscape design industry, says having expertise and resources available at different stages in her company's development has been a tremendous advantage.
“It has helped me build a stronger business model,” she says. “If YBI didn’t exist, I would likely be in some office building trying to come up with answers myself.”
A new technology incubator is planned in Trumbull County, Ohio, with a focus on energy-related technology startups. The Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center (TBEIC) is under construction in a former retail business building in downtown Warren. TBEIC, which will provide resources and services to early-stage companies, is a public-private partnership between state, federal and regional stakeholders to develop and commercialize advanced energy technologies.
“We believe there is a role for us to develop early-stage electrical grid technologies,” says John Pogue, TBEIC chairman.