Now that legislative leaders in the Ohio House and Senate have struck a compromise that seeks to extend the Third Frontier Fund for another 4 years and $700 million, proponents are busy getting ready to see that the bond issue passes the May ballot.
What’s at stake for Ohio is another critical dose of capital infusion in high-tech, alternative-energy and biomedical startups that offer the potential to develop exactly the kind of 21st century high paying jobs that Ohio in general – and Columbus in particular – need.
The first Third Frontier Fund approved in 2005 helped power local innovation centers like TechColumbus, one of the nation’s leading business incubators, as well as TechStart – which injected needed funds directly into promising entrepreneurial organizations in the area.
One change that would be coming if the bond passes is how funds will be managed and administered. In the past, awards were given directly to firms based on their merit. But tough economic times have lengthened how long it takes for startups to succeed. So an expert panel has been put in place that picks contenders for fund disbursement and helps manage the process. This includes 24 entities, mostly venture funds and a handful of others, with a proven track record running venture investments. These entities include several state universities and hospitals, as well as funds and innovation centers like BioEnterprise, Early Stage Partners, JumpStart Inc., and TechColumbus.
Local Chambers of Commerce in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and other cities around the state are expected to support passage of the bond levy, just like they did in 2005. They understand the importance of earmarking funds for new businesses that offer promising job growth down the road.