Ohio needs to continue exploring the Third Frontier

DKS Editors

The most important issue on the May 4 ballot may well be Issue 1, which would allow the state to raise $700 million in bond issues to continue the Ohio Third Frontier program beyond its expiration date.

A yes vote would extend the program, which has cost more than a half billion, to 2015.

Created in 2002 by a bipartisan committee, the program seeks to “expand the state’s high-tech research capabilities” and encourage investment in the “development of new, innovative products” according to Ohio.gov.

The program enjoyed support from former Republican Gov. Robert Taft upon its inception, and is endorsed by current Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, meaning its something both liberals and conservatives have agreed on. And the very best part: It’s working.

According to research from SRI International, for every dollar spent by the program, almost $10 goes back into the state’s economy. The authors of the program originally set a goal of $3.50 going into the state’s economy for every dollar invested.

Ohio has hired SRI to track the number of jobs created by the state’s investment. According to their research, the program helped create 41,000 jobs through 2008, and the state estimates it helped create 55,000 jobs throughout 2009.

In this economy, and in this state, that’s earth-shaking news. We’re in the middle of the rust belt, and it hasn’t exactly seemed like we were going to shake off that rust any time soon.

Investing in high-tech projects is something our state desperately needs. In a country where investors are harder and harder to find, even for some of the most forward thinking entrepreneurs, the state can step in.

Critics will say the state of Ohio doesn’t need to take on any more debt. As always, there’s something to be said for fiscal conservatism, but more jobs and businesses mean all kinds of new, sustainable tax revenue.

Also, the issue makes sense for Kent State. The Liquid Crystal Institute received a $15 million grant to help with its research. The institute received an additional $1.6 million to work with area companies working with flexible plastic capabilities.

Kent State is also a partner in third frontier investments into AlphaMicron and Crystal Diagnostics, Inc.

In all, the school and its partners have received $20 million in investments in the programs, and they could see much more if the issue passes. And what could be better for Kent State than to be seen as a home of new scientific innovations.

Passing the issue makes sense for the Ohio’s economy, its workers and Kent State University. The original third frontier program has inched us closer to becoming a state associated with high-tech jobs and products. Let’s continue on that path.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion

of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.