JobsOhio and Ted Griffith scout the IT scene for businesses to grow in the state

When it recently opened its Client Center for Advanced Analytics in Columbus, IBM said the collection of talent around Columbus was the major reason the corporation picked the Central Ohio area to host its data analytics center. IBM was impressed that within a 200-mile radius, there are more college graduates than in any area of the country other than Boston.

“Columbus, Ohio, couldn’t be a better place to build a center for analytics,” said Ron Lovell, vice president in charge of the center.

Ted Griffith

Ted Griffith

That doesn’t surprise Ted Griffith, managing director of information technology, distribution and logistics for the privatized economic development corporation JobsOhio, which had its first full year of operation in 2012. JobsOhio is active in assisting companies that are looking to locate or expand a business in Ohio.

“We beat out the multiple state options IBM had, and they chose Ohio,” Griffith says. “Now why is that good? Why does that help with attracting IT into Ohio? Because it starts to build a stronger ecosystem when you have some of the major players here.”

Griffith spent 21 years with Hewlett-Packard and held various leadership positions in sales, channel marketing, supply chain and IT services in Europe and Asia, as well as California’s Silicon Valley.

He has also been CEO of a South Korean company and was with Procter & Gamble in Emerging Markets Distribution and Sales Operations.

Spreading the word

Griffith’s message to businesses is simple: “Getting the word out across the nation and around the world that Ohio is open for business in technology and is doing some cool things.”

Jobs Ohio
at a glance

What it is

■ When companies choose to expand their operation where they are or in another state, they’re looking for support in a number of ways. JobsOhio, a private, nonprofit economic development corporation, is a one-stop operation that helps businesses relocate, expand and prosper in Ohio.

What’s offered

JobsOhio awards these incentives to qualifying organizations:

Workforce Grants — To promote economic development, business expansion and job creation by providing funding to improve worker skills and abilities in Ohio.

Economic Development Grant — The same goals but with funding for eligible projects in Ohio.

Revitalization Program — A loan and grant program designed to help revitalize sites that translate into future job creation opportunities for Ohioans. The program is available to public and private entities seeking to clean up and redevelop sites in Ohio.

Growth Fund Loan — It provides capital for expansion projects to companies that have limited access to capital and funding from conventional, private sources of financing. Companies are required to be in the growth, established or expansion stage and have generated revenues through a proven business plan.

JobsOhio offers assistance with state of Ohio programs. These all require creation of new jobs:

The Research and Development Loan Fund provides loan financing between $500,000 and $5 million for projects primarily engaging in research and development activity.

The 166 Direct Loan provides loans for land and building acquisition, construction, expansion, or renovation and equipment purchases for eligible businesses. Loans are for up to 40 percent of a project not to exceed $1.5 million.

The Ohio Enterprise Fund provides revenue bond financing through an S&P rated fund. Up to $10 million in financing is available through the program.

The Innovation Ohio Loan Fund provides loans for acquisition, construction, and related capital costs of technology, facilities and equipment purchases. Loans are for up to 75 percent of the project ranging from $500,000 to $1.5 million.

Roadwork Development (629) funds are available for public roadway improvements, including engineering and design costs for projects primarily involving manufacturing, research and development, high technology, corporate headquarters and distribution activity.

Job Creation Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit to companies generally creating at least 10 new jobs (within three years) with a minimum annual payroll of $660,000 that pay at least 150 percent of the federal minimum wage.

Data Center Tax Abatement provides a tax exemption rate and term that allows for partial or full sales tax exemption on the purchase of eligible data center equipment.

Other key assistance

With its six regional partners, JobsOhio creates one face to the prospective company to navigate nearly all the aspects of finding a new home in Ohio: helping find real estate, obtaining incentives and meeting local, city or regional officials. The one point of contact and the collaboration is seen as a differentiating factor as a business experiences moving into or expanding in Ohio.

How to reach: JobsOhio, (855) 874-2530 or www.jobs-ohio.com

“I’ve spent a lot of time in front of many executives across Silicon Valley and parts of the world having that conversation,” he says. “Sometimes it is a surprise. But once we talk through it, there is interest.”

JobsOhio has two primary strategies: 1. business retention and expansion and 2. attraction.

“From that comes more jobs and more prosperity for everybody,” Griffith says.

“It starts to build a stronger ecosystem when you have a few of the major players here,” he says.

For instance, an IBM official said the idea for the data analytics center came from interaction with area clients, including well-known business giants Nationwide Insurance, Huntington Bank, Cardinal Health and L Brands Inc.

IBM Senior Vice President Mike Rhodin says the center would offer a strong foundation for a broad public and private sector collaboration that will include JobsOhio, The Ohio State University, economic development organization Columbus 2020 and Columbus-based businesses.

“Perhaps most important of all — the center will serve as the foundation of a community of innovators that will transform industries around the world,” Rhodin says.

“When you look at the tech workforce in Ohio, you need to look at Chase Bank, Nationwide Insurance, L Brands; and in the Cleveland area, Progressive Insurance and Hyland, creator of OnBase. You have very large tech workforces today that are part of a business that people would not normally think of as tech,” Griffith says.

“The truth is, tech is now part of the ecosystem of being in business; the workforce for that is embedded many times in all those companies.”

Universities at their fingertips

To help strengthen the technology ecosystem, the availability of educational institutions is a game changer when businesses consider Ohio’s attributes, Griffith says.

While Ohio’s story helps pique the interest of businesses, the old saying that “seeing is believing” picks up where storytelling pauses.

“It starts to build a stronger ecosystem when you have a few of the major players here,” he says.

For instance, an IBM official said the idea for the data analytics center came from interaction with area clients, including well-known business giants Nationwide Insurance, Huntington Bank, Cardinal Health and L Brands Inc.

IBM Senior Vice President Mike Rhodin says the center would offer a strong foundation for a broad public and private sector collaboration that will include JobsOhio, The Ohio State University, economic development organization Columbus 2020 and Columbus-based businesses.

“Perhaps most important of all — the center will serve as the foundation of a community of innovators that will transform industries around the world,” Rhodin says.

“When you look at the tech workforce in Ohio, you need to look at Chase Bank, Nationwide Insurance, L Brands; and in the Cleveland area, Progressive Insurance and Hyland, creator of OnBase. You have very large tech workforces today that are part of a business that people would not normally think of as tech,” Griffith says.

“The truth is, tech is now part of the ecosystem of being in business; the workforce for that is embedded many times in all those companies.”

Universities at their fingertips

To help strengthen the technology ecosystem, the availability of educational institutions is a game changer when businesses consider Ohio’s attributes, Griffith says.

“The linkages you get between the large companies and universities are key to pivoting to the next level of technology ecosystem,” he says.

“It’s a great story how IBM came and collaborated with OSU leadership and put together one of the nation’s first analytics degree programs that cuts across multiple colleges.”

Griffith says what IBM and OSU realized was that in many areas of IT, the current IT graduates do not come from just one discipline; they need to have a variety of experience and education in different areas.

To address the need for analytics talent, for example, the two organizations hammered out an educational program that would produce graduates with the optimum background.

“For analytics, you want people who have experience in mathematics and statistics,” Griffith says. “They need a little bit of computer coding experience and business knowledge as well. OSU put together a curriculum that cut across multiple colleges — because there was no single college that provided all that in one.”

Griffith says OSU now offers a bachelor of science in analytics and is continuing to grow and expand that program with an analytics center of expertise.

“But it started with IBM partnering with OSU to make that game-changing move. That is one of the key areas JobsOhio wants to leverage to help increase the skill of the IT industry,” he says.

Incentive tools

JobsOhio does not exist as part of the state of Ohio but is the private, nonprofit economic development corporation in partnership with the state. For businesses with an opportunity to create jobs in Ohio, there are multiple resources, financial and nonfinancial, to assist them in that growth. As part of the financial assistance, JobsOhio has its own financial incentives, which are separate from the incentives the state of Ohio approves.

JobsOhio offers, for example, a Workforce Grant to foster economic development, business expansion and job creation. To receive such a grant, a company has to commit to the job creation as well as use the funds to improve worker skills and abilities in Ohio.

Another incentive is the Job Creation Tax Credit.

“This is a tax credit that a company would receive over an approved period of time and it is based on a commitment to a certain number of metrics such as job creation,” Griffith says. “It’s not a giveaway but performance based. It’s a measured program with goals and commitments that are set, and the tax incentive is evaluated annually when those goals and incentives are met.”

But beyond financial incentives are the intangibles, like a spirit of collaboration in Ohio.

“There is competition but there is also a high degree of collaboration,” Griffith says. “That might sound contradictory, but it’s fascinating because of how tech is evolving today.

“If you wind the clock back a couple of decades, it was more clear on what was a technology company and what wasn’t. So it was clear that Microsoft and HP were tech companies and some other big companies were not tech.

“But if you have a couple of companies that have developed a solution for business accounting, they are obviously going to compete. Then you look at areas like cybersecurity across banks, insurance companies and retail businesses, and cybersecurity is not really a competitive differentiator. Instead, it is a shared need.”

A group of noncompeting Central Ohio companies recently formed The Columbus Collaboratory LLC, realizing they shared the challenges of cybersecurity, data analytics and talent development.

“It speaks to something very interesting, which is a culture in Ohio around the collaboration, around helping your neighbor. It’s one of the great aspects of the Midwest work ethic,” he says.

SOCIAL MEDIA: To learn more about JobsOhio, like its Facebook page http://on.fb.me/1OmfucH and follow on Twitter @WhyOhio.

Here are some Ohio IT companies success stories:

oh_sr_neo_explorys_EXPLORYS

Steve McHale specifically looks for Midwesterners when he’s hiring people for Explorys, whose software product analyzes massive amounts of health care clinical, claims and billing data.

oh_sr_neo_StevenMcHale“Some students graduate and aspire to go to the West Coast and do Google and Facebook,” says the company’s CEO and co-founder. “We try to determine their proclivity so we have a better opportunity for retention.”

JobsOhio, working with its regional affiliate Team NEO, recommended Explorys receive a Job Creation Tax Credit from the state. This incentive program provides tax credits if a company with a minimum annual payroll of $660,000 creates at least 10 new jobs (within three years) that pay at least 150 percent of the federal minimum wage.

McHale says the company did well on its job projections and grew appropriately, now having about 160 employees, with 250 as its goal in a few years.

Explorys had its roots in a research group at the Cleveland Clinic tasked with finding ways to analyze data. The entity was spun off when McHale’s investment team, 23Bell LLC, wanted a startup health care IT firm and cut a deal. Explorys grew so well that IBM recently bought the company.

“We were really excited at the opportunity to join IBM and form a new division, IBM Watson Health,” McHale says.

How to reach: Explorys, (216) 767-4700 or www.explorys.com

LEANDOG

  leandogEchoing the sentiments about an exciting location is Jon Stahl, president of LeanDog, a corporate change consultant/design and delivery studio in Cleveland.

oh_sr_neo_JonStahlLeanDog is working with JobsOhio on a promotional video to highlight how Ohio offers a strong work environment for IT.

“It’s a great tech scene in Northeast Ohio,” Stahl says. “We work closely with universities so they develop the curriculum to give students the right skills coming out of college.

“We are trying to stop the brain drain and keep all the smart people in Cleveland to start companies.”

To help attract bright, young talent, LeanDog has a unique office space as a drawing card. It’s located on a remodeled 1892 steamship anchored in Lake Erie off Burke Lakefront Airport. “You walk on and start thinking differently,” Stahl says.

“This is the office environment of the future, the weirdness that is going to keep the next generation here because it’s not normal,” Stahl says. “We have three powerboats, jet skis, paddle boards, a full bar, two draft beer kegs and a fitness center with a rock climbing wall.

“So the amenities of working at LeanDog are pretty good.”

How to reach: LeanDog, (216) 357-3120 or www.leandog.com

COVERMYMEDS

CoverMyMedsDoubling employee count yearly is only one statistic Matt Scantland, co-founder of CoverMyMeds, is proud of.

oh_sr_col_cin_MattScantland“Our three key growth metrics are the number of employees, revenue and number of patients we have helped get the drugs that were elusive otherwise,” he says.

In each area, CoverMyMeds has had impressive growth. Employee count is 275, annual revenue is close to $100 million and 15 million patients have become established on their drug. And the firm gave birth to a new industry — ePA, electronic prior authorization.

Aside from helping the company align with the Columbus community and creating awareness along with Columbus 2020 and the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, JobsOhio assisted CoverMyMeds to obtain a JobsOhio Workforce Grant this year. CoverMyMeds plans to use the funds to train 20 new software developers, says Mike Bukach, marketing director.

At the heart of the CoverMyMeds solution is a process that helps patients obtain drugs denied insurance coverage because they required prior authorization.

All handled through a website, the coverage is OK’d after the pharmacist and doctor work out the approval.

Scantland gives credit to Columbus where it is easy to live and relatively low-cost so that he and his co-founder could focus matters such as building the business.

“Our goal is to be the best place for ambitious people to work in Ohio,” he says.

How to reach: CoverMyMeds, (866) 452-5017 or www.covermymeds.com

PILLAR TECHNOLOGY

PillarSteven Yaffe echoes those sentiments about the metropolitan area. He’s vice president of growth hacking at Pillar Technology, which he calls “more than an agency and not a traditional IT consulting firm.”

SteveYaffee-300Yaffe finds the IT field in Ohio a lot more collaborative, especially in Columbus, than in other areas. For instance, people feel free to share ideas without compromising IP intelligence, Yaffe says.

Pillar Technology is working with JobsOhio on a promotional video to highlight how Ohio offers a strong work environment for IT. The company has an innovation center so unique it’s called The Forge — and it rivals such sites in Silicon Valley.

“It’s more than an innovation center; it is a space that allows creativity to produce innovation,” Yaffe says.

Yaffe finds the work climate outstanding in Central Ohio.

“We have some major universities in the state, state government offices, logistics and major retailers here. I think you can reach 400 million lives in less than five hours,” he says.

How to reach: Pillar Technology Group LLC, (888) 374-5527 or www.pillartechnology.com