Reinventing Cleveland: From rust belt to medical capital, numbers tell story of region’s transformation

Over the last 10 years, BioEnterprise has kept tabs on biomedical and health care investment in Northeast Ohio. As the region continues its transformation from Rust Belt to The Medical Capital, the numbers will likely surprise many people.

The most recent data shows Midwest biomedical and health care startups raised $507.8 million in the first half of 2015. Cleveland led that growth for the third time in the past five years, raising more money for health care startups than Minneapolis or Chicago. company creation and new jobs. Other states have launched similar programs in an effort to emulate its success.

During 2014, almost $400 million flowed into Northeast Ohio biomedical startups, most of it from the coasts. In fact, since 2005, more than 300 health care startups in Greater Cleveland attracted $2 billion in new private funding across the medical device, health care software, service and biopharmaceutical sectors.

Driving the rebirth

What has been the driving force behind the region’s success in health care and this biomedical-based economic renaissance?

First, it is the result of a coordinated and long-term effort to build on Northeast Ohio’s world-class health care infrastructure and long-established reputation for clinical care and medical research. The region is home to internationally renowned clinical, research and educational institutions, including Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University and many others.

Together with other private, public and philanthropic partners, these institutions focused their efforts over a decade ago on translating this excellence into new lifesaving products and fast-growing companies.

In addition, Ohio had the forethought to create a unique funding resource — Ohio Third Frontier. This $2.1 billion economic development initiative provides funding to Ohio companies, universities and nonprofit research institutions to stimulate technology development, company creation and new jobs. Other states have launched similar programs in an effort to emulate its success.

Resources recognized nationally

The region now has a nationally recognized system of resources to support company growth, from startup through high growth stage to mature company.

JumpStart focuses on entrepreneurs and early growth companies, MAGNET on manufacturing, and Team NEO on aligning state and local resources to support company attraction and expansion.

Focused exclusively on the biomedical sector, BioEnterprise supports health care companies and helps to commercialize bioscience technologies.

Through its CEO-in-Residence program, for example, BioEnterprise recruits talent and provides the necessary resources to transform early-stage ideas into a full-fledged, growing business.

The big issue facing Northeast Ohio now is commitment to this growth trajectory.

Northeast Ohio is approaching the critical mass required for long-term biomedical sustainability. Witness the rapid increase of new companies, facilities and jobs in the Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor, the world-class companies now working together at the Global Center for Health Innovation and the now 700 area companies in the biomedical space. None of these efforts would have found such success 10 years ago.

These are signs of good things to come but also signs of the work left ahead of us. We should feel great about our progress, but there are challenges ahead, and we need to approach these challenges with the same commitment and foresight that got us here in the first place.

Aram Nerpouni is president and CEO of BioEnterprise, a Northeast Ohio biomedical acceleration initiative.

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