Ohio is becoming an attractive location for IT companies

While California’s Bay Area is the birthplace of many technological innovations, Ohio is home to considerable innovation as well, just without as much of the fanfare.

Ted Griffith, managing director of information technology at JobsOhio, says with lower overall operating costs — as much as 70 percent lower than Silicon Valley — Ohio offers growing startups a sustainable operating environment. It’s also home to incredible tech talent, and its software engineers tend to command less pay. In that regard, the state’s low cost of living gives it a competitive advantage.

He says being close to customers is a real advantage, even for companies that operate digitally. Ohio’s proximity to customers is remarkable, with 55 Fortune 1000 companies headquartered in the state.

And because of its proximity to servers — Amazon Web Services has data centers in Ohio and are expanding them dramatically — which translates to reduced latency and greater speed of data.

Smart Business spoke with Griffith about the advantages Ohio offers tech companies.

Why should technology companies expect to find the talent they need in Ohio?

Ohio has over 200 institutions of higher education that graduate some 170,000 students each year. And there are many unique programs in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus that bring together high schools, companies and universities to create internship programs and STEM development programs.

It’s often overlooked just how much tech talent exists in Ohio because they’re embedded inside businesses that aren’t recognized as tech companies. For instance, The Kroger Co. has hundreds of people working in its IT innovation because the company understands that digital is key to its strategic success. P&G has hundreds of tech employees, as does JPMorgan Chase and Progressive Insurance Co. IT is critical to these companies’ cultures. And the concentration of cybersecurity professionals by metro area in Columbus is larger than Boston.

In what ways is Ohio a tech-friendly state?

Many years ago, Ohio had the vision at the state level to invest $1.6 billion in Ohio Third Frontier, which spawned an ecosystem for entrepreneurs and startups to thrive. As a result, today the state has over 25 incubators and accelerators in its startup ecosystem. This is a strong community of people across disciplines who get together, talk and collaborate. It’s created a thriving culture of support for the tech community.

The state is strong in analytics and data science, areas that have become critically necessary for digital companies because they’re a foundational skill in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The state’s universities have many analytics programs and the companies devoted to analytics are growing across Ohio, which adds to the talent level in the state and leads to spinoffs that grow and develop on their own.

Columbus has a massive retail analytics presence, and The Ohio State University has invested significantly in its data analytics programs while creating links between students and area companies.

Cleveland is growing in data science in the area of health care and has had some recent successes. For example Explorys, a Cleveland Clinic spinoff, has generated new insights into health care. The company proved its model, and became so successful that IBM bought it and opened up a division of IBM Watson Health in Cleveland. Companies like OverDrive and Hyland Software started in Cleveland and have become global leaders in digital business.

What else does Ohio offer tech companies?

Ohio’s centricity gives companies located in the state access to 60 percent of North America’s population in a one-day drive or a short flight. It’s one of only a few states with the lowest risk of natural disasters, which is important for companies that value stability and continuity of operations, such as data centers and cybersecurity operational centers.

Ohio is seeing more companies choosing to invest in the state in recent years. That’s led to clusters of IT companies, which in turn is helping to attract others. As that industry continues to build out in the state, more companies are interested in making Ohio home.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by JobsOhio