In the 21st Century, technology is the driving force behind logistics and infrastructure. Northeast Ohio is leading the way in this area with the formation of development organizations and collaborations. At the heart of this growth is a State of Ohio initiative, called the Third Frontier Project. This 10 year, $1.6 billion statewide initiative was implemented in 2002, with the goal of creating continuous growth in Ohio’s high technology research and applications capabilities. This is done primarily by:
- building world-class research capacity in the state
- supporting early stage capitalization and development of new products
- financing advanced manufacturing technologies to help existing industries to become more productive
The Third Frontier Project is governed by the Third Frontier Commission which is comprised of the Director of the Ohio Department of Development, the Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, the Governor’s science and technology advisor, and six regional commissioners appointed by the Governor. This commission is responsible for funds allocation and has financial accountability to the Ohio General Assembly (state legislative body). The commission is supported by a 16 member advisory board made up of members from business, academia, and government. This board functions to advise the commission on strategic planning, general management, and coordination of programs.
In 2006, the Third Frontier Project Commission adopted the strategy of establishing regional and statewide clusters of technological excellence to enhance the state and, therefore, Northeast Ohio’s global competitive advantage in the creation and enhancement of technologically-advanced companies and products. The objectives of this strategy are to:
- Increase the quantity of high quality research that has commercial relevance for Ohio
- Expand the availability of investment capital needed to form and grow new companies
- Grow and nurture an increasingly experienced pool of entrepreneurial management talent supported by organized systems of services and networking
- Expand the availability of capital and assistance to support product innovation in established companies
- Attract new-to-Ohio company activity that grows and strengthens the function of specific clusters of excellence
In support of this, a recent NorTech (2007) study of the information technology workforce in Northeast Ohio found an estimated 96,000 IT professionals are currently employed in the region. The most common specialties are business application specialists (31%), programmers (13%), network specialists (7%), and information systems analysts (5%). According to the report, approximately 31% of the firms surveyed hired at least one IT professional in the past year and at any given time, over half of the businesses with over 25 employees are seeking to fill IT positions.
Since the demand for IT professionals currently outpaces supply, Northeast Ohio is following the national trend of using non-permanent workers (e.g., consultants, temporary workers) to meet ever-increasing needs. According to NorTech, 22% of the companies surveyed reported using temporary IT workers during the past year to meet their needs. This is even more pronounced with IT consultants in that 42% of the respondents indicated that they have used consultants to fulfill project requirements during the past year.