History of the Cleveland to Pittsburgh Tech Belt | Congressman Tim Ryan
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History of the Cleveland to Pittsburgh Tech Belt

In October 2007, Congressman Tim Ryan (Oh-17) and Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-04) co-hosted a meeting of opinion leaders from NE Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. The goal of the event was to begin a community dialogue on how to create a technology corridor between the Cleveland and Pittsburgh markets. Over 100 representatives from industry, government, academic and economic development were convened to identify a common vision for the concept and resources for implementation.  Among the attendees were Case Western Reserve University, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Carnegie Mellon University, NASA Glen Research Center, the Allegheny Conference, the Heinz Foundation, et al. 

The Tech Belt was conceived as a mechanism to increase the amount of venture capital, grants, innovation, research and development and government assistance in a broad array of industries that will strengthen the entire region. By promoting growth in biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, advanced energy, advanced materials, information technology and robotics, the group can promote sustainable economic development that will move the Rust Belt into the competitive, global 21st century marketplace.

The vision for the Tech Belt is to establish the region as a global center for public and private investment, research and manufacturing and accelerate the region’s ongoing economic transformation by identifying and facilitating technology-based collaborative partnerships that leverage the unique and high-value assets of the combined Tech Belt region. 

The program was largely based upon the work of the Brookings Institution’s Great Lakes Initiative. John Austin, one of the authors of the report, outlined regional initiatives that Brookings is promoting to reverse the economic decline of the Great Lakes region.  Additionally, Norman Augustine, author of “The Gathering Storm”, provided his insights into the changing world economy and how communities can respond.

Since the original event, work has been done at the local level to move the Tech Belt concept forward. A steering committee is being co-chaired by DeWitt Peart, Executive Vice President for Economic Development, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and Joel Ratner, President of the Raymond J. Wean Foundation.  This group will convene over the summer to develop a mission statement for the group, a work plan, and begin planning a follow up event for the latter part of 2008 to be held in western Pennsylvania. Federal, state and local (private) resources will be leveraged to build the infrastructure needed to implement the programs developed in the work plan.

In 2009, funding opportunity teams were to focus on specific areas, including:

  • Energy Efficiency
  • Wind Energy
  •  Life Sciences
  •  Broadband
  •  Workforce Development
  •  Technology Commercialization

Other steering committee members include: Bioenterprise, Jumpstart, Inc., Youngstown Business Incubator, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, MAGNET, Nortech, TEAM NEO, University of Akron, Kent State University, NEOUCOM, Youngstown State University, Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, Pittsburgh Advanced Manufacturing Initiative, Innovation Works, Carnegie Mellon, University of Pittsburgh, McCune Foundation, and the Heinz Foundation. 

Some of the regional strengths that can be leveraged to build a stronger industrial base include:

  • There are now over 700 bioscience companies in the Cleveland-Akron-Youngstown-Pittsburgh corridor employing more than 25,000 people. Since 2005 over $350 million in venture capital has led to new medical device, biopharmaceutical and health care startups.
  • In Northeast OH, there are over 5,000 high-tech and health care job openings: 52% in healthcare and bioscience, 30% in IT, 8% in engineering, 8% in advanced manufacturing, and 2% in other high-tech, according to a NorTech initiative to track such employment opportunities.  (No equivalent numbers are available for Pittsburgh.)
  • World class research institutions, hospitals and universities, including Carnegie Mellon, Case Western Reserve University, University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, Cleveland State University, NEOUCOM, the University of Akron, Kent State University, Youngstown State University, NASA Glen Research Center, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Cleveland Clinic Foundation and University Hospitals.
  • A Life Sciences industry is strong with more than 4,800 companies employing more than 88,000 people, if we include hospitals and other healthcare the region supports more in excess of 10,000 companies employing more than 298,000 people. 
  •  An Energy industry comprises more than 9,700 establishments that employ more than 166,000 people. 

The Tech Belt region, comprised of Greater Cleveland, Erie, Morgantown, Pittsburgh and Youngstown, is home to over 7.2 million people, a workforce of 3.9 million and a combined GDP of $251 billion.  The region demonstrates a strong concentration of manufacturing employment that over the past few years has felt the continued transition of the U.S. economy.  This transition has been painful to many of the communities throughout the region as anchor employers close their doors and jobs are lost.  The Tech Belt initiative will reverse this trend by working to:

  • Retain, attract and create targeted wealth-generating employment within the high-growth, high-demand industry sectors of Life Sciences and Energy.
  • Communicate and implement a comprehensive “supply-chain” focused investment strategy which incorporates and strengthens the region’s manufacturing base within the two target sectors.
  • Promote industry-research partnerships to increase technology transfer, improve production processes and generate new applied research. 
  • Develop and coordinate a common and cohesive technology-based public policy platform for use by both State and Federal level officials to reduce regulatory barriers within the Tech Belt region.
  • Ensure a competitive alignment among the region’s workforce development system, infrastructure priorities and the targeted Life Science and Energy industry sector demand.
  • Identify targeted performance metrics to measure and track the economic impact resulting from the Tech Belt initiative activities.