As soon as Kimm Lauterbach knew the Cincinnati Bengals would face off against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game, she began crafting a marketing campaign with her counterparts in Kansas City to leverage the teams’ achievements into opportunities to position the Midwest and what she calls its “economic inevitability” to a national audience. Lauterbach, president and CEO of Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI Cincinnati), can recite the region’s competitive advantages as knowledgeably as a sports analyst reports statistics and strength of schedule.
Her sales pitch now packs a new walloping advantage point for Ohio: Intel’s January announcement about launching a semiconductor manufacturing campus just outside of Columbus. JobsOhio, the private, non-for-profit economic development corporation, describes Intel’s planned $20 billion investment to build its most advanced semiconductor manufacturing facility in the world “the largest economic event in Ohio’s history.”
“We’ve landed really big project in the past, but to see something as significant as Intel that has the ability to bring a whole new industry to the state, it’s fantastic to be a part of it,” says Lauterbach. “The implications are so great, the supply chain potential is so great, and the follow-on investment by competitors or customers is so great that for the first time I can recall in my career you felt like you were at the very cusp of a whole new blossoming of the state. We’re finally putting to bed the notion that we’re a flyover state.”
Lauterbach says there are already 140 or so Intel suppliers in Ohio, 40 of which are located in Southwest Ohio. REDI’s top priority is to quickly make contact with each to find out how best to help them grow and expand here. “We don’t have a year to figure this out,” she says. “This is great news, and we have to capitalize on it now.”
Intel said it will invest $100 million over the next decade toward partnerships with Ohio educational institutions to develop talent and bolster research programs. Ranga Vemuri, a professor of electrical and computer engineering in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, says a majority of his master’s and doctoral students over the years has gone on to work for Intel and it’s “easily two to three times that number when you include our other departments, such as Physics.”
Vemuri says there’s a good opportunity for universities to start and align teaching programs to supply Intel with the right manpower in terms of engineers and researchers. The key is to build robust course sequences and develop a compelling research agenda in a way that doesn’t duplicate what other institutions are offering.
“UC’s training must build both technical and entrepreneurial skills in students so they can start new companies to strengthen the presence of the integrated circuit design industry in Ohio,” says Vemuri.
The Bengals’ thrilling Super Bowl run continues to inspire regional economic development wins. “You know, the Bengals gave us the tagline It Is Us that came out of Why Not Us?” says Lauterbach. “We’ve been using that nonstop, always marrying Intel’s investment in the state of Ohio with the international media attention brought to Cincinnati through the Super Bowl. Of course it’s us. It’s our time.”