RGP: Building a high-tech, high-performance economyWritten by Dave Waterman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2005, business leaders across Northwest Ohio committed to strengthening local economic development efforts by privately funding the Regional Growth Partnership. This fund-raising campaign, spearheaded by the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, allowed the RGP to become more competitive by supporting the region’s core manufacturing base and diversifying the economy through the creation and growth of technology-based businesses.
During that five-year period, the RGP, in collaboration with its regional economic development partners, has made an impact in attracting investment through traditional business development projects and creating new opportunities for technology-based entrepreneurs. It also has played a leading role in marketing the region on a national and international level.
Without question, the challenges have been great, not the least being a global economic recession. Progress has not happened as quickly as hoped, evidenced by an unemployment rate hovering above 10 percent for most of 2010. But the RGP continues to make inroads in advancing the regional economy and has put forth a proactive strategic plan for 2011 designed to further expand economic opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.
A look back at the first four years of a privately funded RGP finds that the organization, in conjunction with economic development partners across Northwest Ohio, helped in creating 9,000 jobs, as well as 22,000 total jobs, both direct and indirect. The RGP worked on 178 business development projects which resulted in capital investment exceeding $4.2 billion. The organization’s direct outreach program to site consultants and corporate executives averages 200-plus contacts every month to these key relocation decision makers.
Under the RGP umbrella, Rocket Ventures (an Entrepreneurial Signature Program of the Ohio Third Frontier) has been responsible for commercializing 81 new technology start-up companies over its three-year history. The pre-seed early-stage venture fund has made 25 investments (worth more than $5.5 million) in startups within Northwest Ohio. In addition, Rocket Ventures has awarded 32 Ignite Development grants (worth nearly $1.5 million) to promising tech companies. During this three-year period, RV clients have already generated more than $75 million in investments and sales revenues – a leading indicator of future success of the program.
Also on the technology side, the RGP’s Launch program has reported an economic impact exceeding $86 million, comprised of income and investment into client companies. Operating as a virtual incubation program that provides business assistance services for technology entrepreneurs, Launch has generated grant awards of $29 million for tech start-up companies and economic development initiatives.
The RGP’s technology programs have put together some of the most exciting and respected events over the past couple years, including Tech Connect, Entrepreneurial Fair and Venture Tech.
Providing support for these business and technology development programs is the RGP’s marketing arm, which focuses on promoting the region’s strengths, assets and resources on a regional, national and global scale. The highly successful editorial marketing program has generated prominent placements in top tier media outlets including Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC World News and Fox Business News.
While the RGP is proud of its accomplishments, the organization will continue to set higher standards by implementing an aggressive strategic plan focused on results. With the commitment and collaboration of partners across the region, we will continue toward our goal of building a high-tech, high-performing economy.
Dave Waterman is chairman of the Regional Growth Partnership Board of Directors.