Best & Worst States For Business 2022: Ohio’s Head Start On Transformation

The Intel commitment is nice and all, but the company’s promise of investing up to $20 billion for a microchip plant near Columbus and the possibility of pouring up to $100 billion into the region over several years aren’t the only things the Buckeye State has going for it in economic-development terms.

Indeed, Ohio held its rank at No. 7 in the Chief Executive “Best and Worst States for Business” ranking this year, putting it right behind No. 6 Indiana as the strongest performer in the Midwest.

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“What Intel is doing is creating an enabling industry to everything else we have,” Kenny McDonald, head of Columbus One, the state capital’s development arm, told Chief Executive. “It actually aids and accelerates the transformation of our aerospace, automotive and consumer-products manufacturing that we have across the state.”

In fact, one main reason Intel chose Ohio as the site of its biggest capital investment ever is the progress the state already made over the last decade or so in modernizing its reputationally “Rust Belt” economy and, just as important, in positioning it for growth based on new technology industries such as microchips and healthcare.

For example, in Cleveland, the Cleveland Clinic has become one of the world’s fastest-growing health-care enterprises, expanding a national and international presence that redounds wonderfully to benefit its base in Ohio. Procter & Gamble’s renewed success as one of the world’s largest consumer-products companies has solidified its importance as a pillar of the Cincinnati-area economy. And in a nearly literal birth of a new industry from the ashes of an older version, General Motors and South Korea’s LG Chem have been completing a $2.3-billion plant to assemble GM’s Ultium battery systems for electric cars just a stone’s throw from the automaker’s old assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

Old and new money alike are placing big new bets in a variety of ways around the state. For example, a developer is even buying real estate in downtrodden downtown Elyria with the vision of transforming the central business district of the Cleveland exurb. And drawing inspiration from the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, organizers are launching the first OhioXtech summit, in Cleveland, in April.

Meanwhile, a California company plans to move its headquarters back to Columbus in an operation that will employ nearly 700 people developing hydrogen fuel cells. Hyperion, now based in Orange, California, plans to relocate to a printing plant in Columbus that closed in 2020, investing nearly $300 million in a facility that would be the largest new factory in Columbus in a decade.

Hyperion’s move could serve as the basis for the establishment of a hydrogen-energy hub in the state, where a coalition of energy producers, industrial consumers, research institutions, elected officials and community leaders are assembling support for pursuing one of the four such $2-billion concentrations to be funded by the federal government nationwide.

Such possibilities for creating a technology-centric rejuvenation in Ohio were central to the reason that Mark Kvamme moved to Columbus several years ago. The Silicon Valley stalwart and son of E. Floyd Kvamme, one of the co-founders of National Semiconductor, decamped for Ohio because he believed “the next technological transformation” will happen in the “consumer packaging, manufacturing, insurance and healthcare-services companies of the Midwest.”

After helping a number of technology startups in Columbus and the region as co-founder of Drive Capital, Kvamme pushed Ohio closer to this transformation. Intel’s investment will certainly complete the push over the goal line.