Ohio Third Frontier Renewal Up to Voters

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A $700 million renewal of Ohio Third Frontier — the 10-year, $1.6 billion project to re-energize Ohio’srneconomy by investing in emerging technologies — will be decided by voters inrnreferendum on the state’s May 4 ballot

Gov. Ted Strickland praised a bipartisan agreement reached inrnthe state legislature to renew the Third Frontier. “This bipartisan agreementrnis the strongest validation of the successful economic development program thatrnhas already created tens of thousands of jobs. This is a significant investmentrnin Ohio’s economy and cornerstone of Ohio’s economic growth strategy.” spokeswomanrnAmanda Wurst said.

The Ohio Senate voted 30-2 to ask voters to extend ThirdrnFrontier — slated to end in fiscal 2012 — for four more years with a bond issuernof $700 million. The Ohio House passed the joint resolution 83-14.

The measure  wouldrnrenew funding for the project and raise its annual grant-making ability to $175rnmillion from about $160 million a year. In addition, the bond funding would notrnbe subject to state budgetary issues, as is two-thirds of Third Frontier’srncurrent budget.

The effort to renew the state’s most ambitious economicrndevelopment project began late last year when two legislators proposed issuingrn$1 billion in bonds to fund an additional five years. Third Frontier invests inrntechnology research, development, commercialization and entrepreneurship inrnfive industries. Two weeks ago, the Ohio House trimmed that to a $950  million bond issue. Last week, the OhiornSenate  cut that to $500 million.rnThe two legislative branches agreed to split the difference.

ThirdrnFrontier already is succeeding, even though the project is a long-termrninvestment. By one independent analysis, the project created an economic impactrnof $6.6 billion and 41,300 jobs and a return on the state’s investment ofrn10-to-1 in its first seven years. A recent analysis led by business people whornsit on the Third Frontier’s commission and advisory board concluded the projectrnwould likely pay back taxpayers by with just sales and payroll taxes generatedrnby businesses and industries it helped.

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