Despite the long shadow cast by the pandemic and ongoing geopolitical challenges, Investment Monitor’s latest data analysis suggests the future looks promising for Ohio and those willing to capitalise on the midwestern hub’s myriad strengths across numerous industries. The Buckeye State has a long and distinguished history of innovation and growth and shows no sign of backsliding.

One of the distinctive features of Ohio’s urban economy is its willingness to embrace the concept of smart cities. The European Commission defines smart cities as places where “traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital solutions for the benefit of […] inhabitants and business”. GlobalData’s research goes further by describing smart cities as an essential solution to the challenges raised by a profound uptick in global urban migration and the climate crisis.

GlobalData predicts that “up to 70% of the world’s population will live in cities” by 2050, putting considerable pressure on existing infrastructure and resources. Characterised by their implementation of the internet of things, 5G and AI, smart cities essentially embody a combination of cutting-edge technologies that can “provide the hardware (such as sensors and cameras), connectivity and data analysis capabilities” required to manage this rapidly emerging paradigm shift.

Smart Ohio

Since Columbus, Ohio, became renowned for being a trailblazer when it won the 2016 smart city challenge run by the US Department of Transportation, its “impressive, holistic vision for how technology can help all residents move better and access opportunity” could be considered emblematic of the kind of forward-thinking initiative required to accelerate future investment and growth across the US.

Smart Columbus, the smart city initiative for the Columbus region, has spent the past five years since winning the competition adopting “emerging technology to accelerate efforts to create prosperity”. Describing itself as an “agile, collaborative innovation lab”, it plans to continue spearheading the drive to use smart city technologies to enhance numerous aspects of its citizens’ lives by “deploying human-centred, technology-enabled solutions” to complex societal problems such as “growing inequity and workforce disruption”.

GlobalData research highlights that Smart Columbus focused intently on how technology could benefit its community and deliver “against the city’s challenges around mobility and transportation”. This translated into various efforts to develop its public transport network to “improve underserved communities’ access to employment opportunities” and grow the local economy. Future initiatives fall under several broad categories like smart mobility, sustainability and digitalisation, the latter of which seeks to facilitate “enhanced access” to upskilling and social services, alongside partnering with the City of Columbus to pilot “affordable internet solutions” that improve digital equity amongst citizens.

Smart markets

Columbus is ahead of the curve with its bold approach to investing in the smart city market, which represents the tip of an increasingly large iceberg that is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years. According to Investment Monitor analysis of GlobalData’s smart cities forecast, transportation and infrastructure are expected to have the strongest growth of all smart city segments between now and 2024.

Yet there are more reasons to consider the birthplace of aviation a potentially smart investment area than Columbus’s innovative approach to citizen-focused technologies. Investment Monitor analysis of GlobalData’s city economics database shows that Ohio’s three most populous cities are expected to continue outpacing the rest of the state when it comes to overall economic growth measured in nominal gross value added (GVA) between now and 2027.

The same analysis reveals that Cincinnati is expected to be particularly strong in terms of growth across its construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities sectors. The latter segment is forecast to outpace the rest of the US in nominal GVA growth over the next five years.

A smart move

Numerous companies and agencies are pushing for continued economic and technological progress across the mid-western territory often known as ‘the Mother of Presidents’. JobsOhio, the state’s economic and business development catalyst, is one of the key players leading the charge to advance Ohio’s smart tech credentials. The organisation’s smart mobility vertical outlines a whole host of reasons why any savvy investor or business might want to consider setting up a new base of operations in the area.

Commercial incentives include a “simplified tax structure, diversified industrial base, robust supply chain, central location, multimodal transportation and logistics infrastructure, cutting-edge technology and R&D hubs”, which collectively represent a “tailor-made” ecosystem designed to capitalise on a growing market for “products and services Made in America”.

Just as the City of Columbus realised its smart city initiatives needed to prioritise people over products, JobsOhio also emphasises the importance of taking advantage of the state’s “greatest asset”, its workforce, which it describes as “educated, committed, skilled and productive”. Although smart cities based on smart technologies are a potentially smart investment for forward-thinking companies, Ohio’s three most populous cities are also full of smart people contributing their acumen to their local economies.

A smart workforce

Analysis by Investment Monitor of data provided by the US national centre for education statistics has shown that academic institutions offering degrees within the cities of Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati have the highest overall graduation rates across the state of Ohio.

Further analysis of US Census data suggests that areas around Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland also punch above their weight when it comes to the proportion of the local population educated to bachelor’s level and beyond. Upper Arlington, a suburb of Columbus, had the highest proportion of people with a college education, which is well over double that of the US and nearly three times as much as Ohio in general.

JobsOhio has no intention of allowing complacency to set in just because its populace already benefits from an abundance of smart workers, however. The company “continually invests in the state’s current and future workforce”, and offers unique incentives like the JobsOhio Inclusion Grant and Talent Acquisition Services to ensure that Buckeye-based companies have the best chance of success.

Building the future

Impressive numbers and smart cross-sector initiatives are not the only signs of economic momentum in Ohio. Companies are already showing how much they value the state with a long history of technological innovation stretching back to Thomas Edison. JobsOhio recently shared news that Intel is planning to build a new “hi-tech campus” dedicated to domestic semiconductor manufacturing. Alongside providing crucial supplies to multiple industries including automotive, aerospace and consumer goods, this will also create “thousands of high-paying jobs”.

Another initiative driving the future of smart mobility in Ohio is DriveOhio’s infrastructure deployment plan, which sets out how the state is playing its part in putting the US “on a path to a nationwide network of 500k electric vehicle (EV) chargers by 2030”. This is designed to “ensure a convenient, reliable, affordable and equitable charging experience for all users”.

Billions of dollars of investment are pouring into a state already brimming with innovation, talent and many rapidly expanding programmes to enhance and grow a strong local economy. Ambitious investors and companies ready to partner with Ohio in the next chapter of its development can be assured that they are joining a holistic mission to turbocharge a diverse and thriving economic ecosystem.