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Columbus Joins Cleveland And Cincinnati In Creating Innovation District

A rendering of Ohio State's Innovation District from the corner of Kenny Road and Lane Avenue.
The Ohio State University
A rendering of Ohio State's Innovation District from the corner of Kenny Road and Lane Avenue.

Ohio leaders and major employers are hoping to prime the pump for ongoing investment in the Columbus area by pouring $1 billion into an innovation district. 

The STEM-focused district on the city's Northwest side combines investment from the Ohio State University, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and JobsOhio, and builds on plans the university unveiled two years ago.

At a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Andrew Ginther called the effort a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

“We want dynamic and inclusive growth,” Ginther says. “And we think this will help our city to align jobs housing and infrastructure along the Northwest corridor, propelling our city into the future.”

The Columbus district joins similar JobsOhio initiatives in Cleveland and Cincinnati, all of which aim to bring in 20,000 jobs and have $3 billion in economic impact.

"The Columbus Innovation District is intended to both cultivate and keep those talented employees here in the state of Ohio," Gov. Mike DeWine said.

The majority of the district's funding, $650 million, comes from Ohio State. Nationwide Children’s is putting forward another $350 million and Jobs Ohio is investing $100 million.

Ohio State president Kristina Johnson explains the state funding is tied to benchmarks like increasing STEM grads or securing federal research grants. The school has promised to graduate 22,500 students in the next 15 years in STEM fields.

“This investment is focused on increasing federally funded research on biomedical science and engineering by 50% in this decade, and this aim will accelerate advances in these field for the benefit of Ohio and Ohioans,” Johnson says.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted says it will attract people who want to research viruses, pathogens, STEM cell therapies and cancer. "These are absolutely the kind of things that young people are looking for, because they want to be involved in the thing that's the collest thing to do in the world, and that's what we are creating, Husted said.

The funding portion from JobsOhio is largely forgivable investments. If Ohio State or Nationwide Children’s meet their benchmarks, they keep the money, but if they fall short the state agency can claw some of those dollars back.

In addition to direct funding, some of the JobsOhio money will assist in real estate development within the district. JobsOhio president J.P. Nauseef says they are still finalizing the plan.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.
Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.