Friday, Aug 26, 2016
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Editorials

Low-balling high tech

AS THE Blade has repeatedly asserted over the years in our “Other Ohio” campaign, there is no level playing field when it comes to equitable distribution of state resources. The blatant disparity between the big three metropolitan regions and everybody else was displayed again this week when the Ohio Department of Development announced 16 technology grants.

One - exactly one! - was awarded to northwest Ohio.

As usual, the biggest piece of the pie went to the Three C's: Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. A whopping 82 percent of the state's $125 million technology award money went to firms and institutions in those cities.

To Governor Bob Taft and his Department of Development, which made the final recommendations for grants, we cannot say it strongly enough: That's not benign indifference to our region; it's tantamount to economic assassination. Is he Toledo's governor or not? We wonder.

A nonprofit research and development center in Toledo, EISC, Inc., will collect a $327,000 grant to study the effect of natural food additives and try to nurture a corresponding industry locally with the seed money. That's good news for EISC, but what about the rest of northwest Ohio?

There were 11 applications from our corner of the state, which, as a recent Blade series noted, lags seriously behind most other Ohio metropolitan areas in high-tech development. Is it not in Ohio's best interest to spur such development where little to none exists?

This is why we've been harping for so long on the issue of decentralization of state government, and the economic boost it would bring. It's infuriating to those who live and work in our region to be regularly shortchanged by state bureaucrats who look at a map of Ohio and only see I-71.

Small private companies which applied for some of the state's Technology Action Grant money say they were misled into believing they had a fair shot after the department encouraged them to apply.

Instead, as one of the rejected applicants charged, the selection process seemed skewered from the beginning toward big projects with big sponsors and big research. With some 153 applicants vying for high-tech funding, the Batelle Memorial Institute in Columbus managed to win a hefty 15 percent of the pot with $2.15 million for two initiatives.

If this region cannot overcome its slow start in developing a vibrant high-tech economy, promising business opportunities will undoubtedly go elsewhere.

Nothing less than the economic survival of the region is at stake in generating technological development. By consistently bypassing northwest Ohio in favor of the Three Cs, the state only reinforces its grating disregard for our economic plight. The battle for a high-tech economy is all the tougher when we're at the bottom looking up.

The Blade has fought for economic justice for this region for many years, and just so nobody in Columbus misunderstands, we reiterate it now: We are not going to go away.

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