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From Site Selection magazine, January 2024

In Ohio

Innovation is a Team Sport

Columbus Crew leading scorer Cucho Hernandez celebrates after driving home a penalty kick in the 2023 MLS Cup Final on December 9, which the Crew won 2-1 before an overflow crowd at the team’s new Field stadium.
Photo courtesy of Columbus Crew


eep the line moving. Make one more pass. Change the momentum. Go with the flow. Focus. Work together toward a common goal.

If cliches become cliches because they have a kernel of truth to them, it’s doubly true for sports. It may be triply true when it comes to the team approach to economic development in the Buckeye State.

We all know there is no “I” in team, after all. But the team-based approach from JobsOhio is reaping dividends in areas where the “I”s have it: infrastructure, inclusion, institutions, ingenuity and innovation among them.

Go no further than renowned location advisor Dennis Cuneo, the partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP with decades of site selection experience that included his role as senior vice president of Toyota Motor North America helping launch manufacturing operations in North America.

Noting the momentum surrounding central Ohio and Columbus as Intel’s $20 billion fabrication complex rises in Licking County, Cuneo says, “It’s very exciting stuff. I think Ohio is on the cutting edge. I really do.” Strong institutions and critical-mass metros are among the reasons. But so is everyday life. “Ohio is a nice environment,” says the veteran site selector, noting that professionals moving from an expensive place like Silicon Valley “can buy a big house and send their kids to good schools.”

Schools like The Ohio State University, an important partner in the Columbus Innovation District, one of three Innovation Districts (including in Cleveland and Cincinnati) supported by JobsOhio.

“Innovation is in Ohio’s DNA, from the Wright Brothers pioneering flight to Ohioans walking on the moon,” JobsOhio noted in August 2023 as it celebrated 12 years since its creation by former Gov. John Kasich. “JobsOhio builds on this spirit of innovation through a bold strategy focused on three imperatives: strategically deploying venture capital funding into Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, accelerating research discoveries into commercial products through collaborations between academia and industry, and creating urban Innovation Districts where entrepreneurs, tech startups and corporations can connect more deeply.”

Sort of like teammates when they’re flowing in the zone.

Foundational, Generational Investments

Projects definitely are flowing in Ohio. Among the most recent: Payment processor Worldpay announced in December the return of its headquarters to Cincinnati. In addition to creating more than 500 new jobs, Worldpay will retain over 900 current jobs, representing a retained total payroll of $93.7 million. The news came a few days after residential cabinet company MasterBrand announced the move of its own corporate headquarters to Beachwood in Northeast Ohio.


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An associate works on an Acura vehicle in Ohio, where two of the top 10 and five of the top 15 vehicles in the 2023 American-Made Index are produced.

Photo courtesy of Honda


“Worldpay selecting Ohio for its headquarters showcases our position as a supportive environment for fintech innovation,” said Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted. “Coupled with the Cincinnati Innovation District, this announcement allows Worldpay to tap into a rich talent pool of highly skilled professionals in finance, technology and data analytics.”

“Access to talent, quality of life, great educational institutions and the new direct flight from CVG Airport to London significantly contributed to the decision to make our corporate headquarters in Greater Cincinnati, connecting us to our customers worldwide,” said Charles Drucker, incoming CEO of Worldpay. The new British Airways flight came about as the result of JobsOhio’s air service restoration program.

Sometimes several projects come from a single employer. Honda — which has been manufacturing in Ohio since 1979 — in February 2023 joined with LG Energy Solution to break ground on a 2.8-million-sq.-ft. EV battery plant in Fayette County where the companies will invest $3.5 billion initially and eventually $4.4 billion in a complex that will create 2,200 jobs. Honda also has announced plans to invest $700 million to re-tool several of its existing auto and powertrain plants in Ohio for production of EVs that will utilize the batteries made at the new joint venture. The Ohio State University and Honda in November 2023 announced a partnership for a battery cell research center at the Columbus Innovation District that leverages the $100 million JobsOhio Research and Development Center Grant program, which helps support JobsOhio’s targeted industries including Advanced Manufacturing, Aerospace & Aviation, Automotive, Healthcare, Financial Services, Food Processing, Information Technology, Logistics & Distribution, and Shale Energy & Petrochemicals.

JobsOhio’s Innovation Districts are estimated to create 60,000 new jobs and have a $9 billion annual economic impact on the state over 10 years. They bring together what JobsOhio calls “three synergistic constituents”: medical and research facilities; academic institutions; and private corporations, all undergirded by STEM talent development. The three Innovation Districts are expected to inspire more than 47,000 STEM graduates and are being supported by $100 million each from JobsOhio.

“Ohio’s Innovation Districts are strong individually in specialized areas, including gene therapy, emerging pathogen research, and pediatric oncology,” said JobsOhio President and CEO JP Nauseef in September.

Ohio higher education institutions already graduate 38,000 STEM graduates annually. More are on the way: The state’s fiscal year 2024-’25 budget allocates $50 million to renew the highly successful TechCred program, which will generate 20,000 technology-focused credentials in each of the next two years. The state is investing another $300 million to expand, build, and equip career technical centers with the tools and technologies students need to prepare for employment in current and next-generation industries.

Match that with affordable salaries and an upper Midwest work ethic — Ohio’s Labor Productivity Index (growth rate) has been No. 1 in the seven-state Midwest region since 2014 — and you have a heady mix for corporate and personal prosperity. 

Clusters On Top of Clusters

The high-level skills in the state are about to be ratcheted upward.

In the space of a few months, it was revealed that Columbus-based Battelle will lead the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (eligible for up to $925 million in U.S. DOE grants) and Akron’s Sustainable Polymers Tech Hub was selected by the U.S. EDA as one of 31 Regional Innovation and Technology Hubs nationwide, with the added bonus of a federal Strategy Development Grant to move the hub forward.

Greater Akron Chamber Polymer Industry Cluster Vice President Brian Anderson tells me, “JobsOhio and Team NEO, their regional affiliate (JO/TN), have been critical partners in the establishment and growth of our consortium, as well as marquee wins including our Tech Hub designation. JO/TN was a founding supporter of the Polymer Industry Cluster initiative that I lead out of the Greater Akron Chamber, representing a growing consortium of now about 50 organizations (mostly companies) engaging in the work of identifying common challenges and developing shared solutions.” They include such names as Goodyear, Bridgestone and Parker Hannifin. “JO/TN has supported this work financially, helping to staff these activities where our work as convener and facilitator is critical to cross-sector collaboration, building shared vision and goals, and planning development projects.”


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The Short North neighborhood in Columbus (inset) is nearly as hot as the region’s Innovation District, whose momentum attracted Tishman Speyer to help design mixed-use development Carmenton.

Images courtesy of Carmenton and TourismOhio


Team NEO is one of six regional economic development organizations that are key JobsOhio partners, the others being One Columbus, Dayton Development Coalition, Regional Growth Partnership (Toledo), REDI Cincinnati and Ohio Southeast Economic Development.

Since the October announcement, Anderson says, “we have enjoyed a significant increase in momentum of our work. We have achieved more earned media in the last six weeks than in the previous three years combined. We have formed new relationships with Fortune 500 and other industry-leading companies that we hadn’t made contact with yet before the designation announcement. And we’ve recently been awarded a $250,000 grant from the State of Ohio to support our consortium’s workforce development efforts … without naming names, I can say that the Tech Hub designation has increased enthusiasm and engagement of our industry partners, helping us to both reaffirm prior investment commitments as well as generate new interest.”

SiteOhio Crucial to Industrial Development Infrastructure

Shovel-ready sites are truly where the rubber meets the road when it comes to industrial development opportunities such as the current wave of large projects crashing onto U.S. shores. On top of the state’s No. 1 finish in Site Selection’s 2023 Global Groundwork Index rankings, which combine data from public infrastructure investment projects and private-sector facility projects, Ohio is stepping up to develop more megasites to capture the next Intel as well as smaller sites that pack plenty of punch.


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Next door to Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark (named for locally headquartered Great American Insurance) sits a great American story in the Cincinnati Innovation District, which aims to build on an all-time high in research spending in 2022 by the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and fuel an additional $2 billion in research over 10 years.

Images courtesy of TourismOhio


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Tonya Crist

The state’s budget for 2024/2025 includes $750 million for the new All Ohio Future Fund, which prepares locations to be ready for large strategic economic development projects; $350 million investment in brownfield remediation to revitalize and prepare sites for future economic development opportunities; $124 million for water infrastructure modernization for townships, villages, and cities; $150 million for the Ohio Building and Demolition and Site Revitalization Program; and $30 million for the Rural Industrial Park Loan Program.

The state’s SiteOhio program continues to build its portfolio of sites, totaling 23 at year end and certain to increase soon. Tonya Crist, owner of InSite Consulting Group, has been directly involved in authenticating SiteOhio sites since the launch of the program in 2015. What impressed her was JobsOhio’s hunger for doing things the right way, with no political agenda and a wide-open invitation for communities across the state’s 88 counties to have the opportunity to be vetted for readiness.

“JobsOhio already was seen as a very flexible organization moving at the speed of business,” she says. “They just didn’t have the product ready to match their culture.”

Today they do, to the tune of more than $13 billion invested and 22,000 jobs created so far. What stood out to Crist was the number of rural communities hungry for investment and ready to bring their execution up to speed with InSite’s coaching and guidance, whether the parcel was 50 acres or 1,000. In one community, she says, there was a need for water infrastructure that would cost $2 million to install. “Next thing you know, they got the water there and people located there,” she says. 

Not only have the wins increased, the leads have too, bringing consistent visibility to communities that weren’t being seen before for the authentic places they were. “One region that saw one prospect in a year saw over 90,” Crist says. Meanwhile, “the talent side of JobsOhio supports the site side,” she says. “We’re not just myopically looking at the dirt. In our decision-making model we’re also assessing the labor pool, and how it corresponds to the types of companies that might locate on the site.”

The pace has been such that, Crist says, “some sites were sold before we even got them certified. No other state in the country has seen the kind of return on investment that JobsOhio has.” 

Ah yes, investment. Another “I” word that is never taken for granted but is always in the sights of the team at JobsOhio. 

This Investment Profile was produced under the auspices of JobsOhio, a private nonprofit corporation formed to drive job creation and capital investment in Ohio through business attraction, retention and expansion. Visit

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.


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