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Ohio: At the Forefront of Innovation and Collaboration

30 Apr, 2006

By: Bruce Johnson

Thomas Edison, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Charles Goodyear and Henry Timken—these are just some of the pioneers who helped shape Ohio’s rich history of innovation and discovery. Their works helped establish Ohio as a leader in a variety of industries and left an indelible mark on the state, inspiring future generations to carry on their pursuit of innovation.

This spirit of innovation, coupled with a diverse mix of business and industry, strong infrastructure, a highly skilled and enterprising workforce, a strategic location close to major U.S. markets and population centers, a strong position in the global marketplace and an expanding role as a hub of research and development are just a few qualities that make Ohio an attractive place for the automotive and aerospace industries to conduct business. Ranked by Site Selection magazine as first in the Midwest and second in the nation for new and expanded business facilities, and also ranked as one of the top five business climates in the U.S., Ohio has earned a reputation as a premier location for new and expanded business investments.

The people of Ohio are building on these successes by providing the resources necessary for the improvements and modernizations that will assist in the development of new markets and the expansion of existing markets. Recent changes made to Ohio’s tax system have leveled the playing field for businesses in Ohio by eliminating tax on profits, tax on machinery and equipment, furniture and fixtures and inventory, and by cutting personal income taxes by 21 percent.

Ohio’s strong vehicle and aerospace manufacturing roots go back more than 100 years. In 1901, Henry Timken opened the Timken Roller Bearing Axle Company in Canton, Ohio, to produce tapered roller bearings that became key components of modern vehicle design. Today, Ohio ranks second in the U.S. in the production of motor vehicles, and first in the number of tier-one suppliers with nearly 1.9 million vehicles rolling off Ohio assembly lines each year. The state is home to some 630 motor vehicle industry firms that employ 154,000 people. In the field of aerospace, Ohio ranks second in the nation in aircraft engine and engine parts manufacturing, and sixth in the aerospace products and parts manufacturing industry, employing more than 30,000 Ohioans.

Ohio researchers are making tremendous strides in all areas of automotive and aerospace technology. Recently, the Edison Welding Institute, an Ohio Edison Technology Center, located in Columbus, developed a revolutionary solid state joining technology that has stirred great interest. Friction stir welding (FSW) is a joining process created by generated frictional heat, allowing materials previously considered non-weldable (such as certain types of aluminum, titanium, stainless steel, nickel alloys and thermoplastics) to be conjoined. This new process is being demonstrated for both commercial and military aircraft engines and airframe applications. EWI has partnered with Boeing, Sikorsky, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, United Defense and GE Aircraft Engines in the utilization of this innovative process.

Ohio has long been home to some of the greatest automotive manufacturing the world has ever known. Ohio’s strategic location and dedicated workforce make the state an ideal location for manufacturing. Ohio manufacturers and suppliers are within a day’s drive to more than 60 percent of the U.S. marketplace. With more than 200 tier-one suppliers strategically located across the state, Ohio manufacturers provide products to automakers including Honda of America, DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors (GM), all companies that continually reinvent themselves by utilizing new technologies and processes.

In February of this year, GM continued its investment in Ohio and its workers when it announced expansion of a 50-year old powertrain facility in Toledo to allow for production of a new high performance, fuel-efficient six-speed transmission. GM estimates it will produce one million six-speed transmissions a year by 2007 and as many as three million a year by 2010. The company’s investment of more than $500 million is one of many recent investments in the state. During the last five years, automakers have committed more than $5.2 billion in new investment to Ohio.

Additionally, the state recently renewed its commitment to the auto industry when Governor Bob Taft launched the Ohio Automotive Revitalization Initiative. The program will assist the state’s auto industry by building capital investments, strengthening the workforce, developing new technologies, improving processes and increasing federal advocacy efforts.

As the birthplace of notable aviators and astronauts such as the Wright Brothers, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, Ohioans have always had the vision and desire to go higher and faster. The state, through the Ohio Department of Development, is a catalyst for research and development in the automotive and aerospace industries. The state recently provided a $10 million Third Frontier award to establish the Ohio Center for Advanced Propulsion and Power (OCAPP) at The Ohio State University (OSU). It’s expected that the OCAPP will develop the next generation propulsion systems that will position Ohio as a major supplier of engines to power new, state-of-the-art aircraft for military, commercial and space applications.

The OCAPP represents an unprecedented level of collaboration among Ohio’s leading aerospace institutions. They include: the Air Force Research Laboratories at Wright Patterson Air Force Base; NASA Glenn Research Center; OSU; the University of Cincinnati; the University of Dayton; Case Western Reserve University; the University of Akron; and the Air Force Institute of Technology. Commercial collaborators include: GE Aircraft Engines; Parker Hannifin; Timken Corporation; Argo-Tech Corporation; WebCore; Glennan Microsystems, Inc.; and AEP Em Teck, LLC.

Ohio is also proud to be at the forefront of the development of new technologies for our nation’s military. Boeing’s Guidance Repair Center (BGRC), located within the Central Ohio Aerospace Technology Center (COATC), employs more than 600 people and performs complete depot level repair of missile systems for the military. BGRC repairs, tests and calibrates nearly every type of guidance/navigation system including: inertial navigation units for aircraft such as the F-15, F-16, F-117, B-1B, B-2, B-52, C-17, C-130, and C-141, as well as the Minuteman III and Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. BGRC also services advanced cruise missile sensors and maintains the Dual Miniature Inertial Navigation System (DMINS) for the Navy's aircraft carriers.

In March 2004, the State of Ohio joined the U.S. Department of Defense in committing assistance to Lockheed Martin for its plans to expand the R&D and manufacturing operations at its Akron facility for the development and eventual manufacture of a High Altitude Airship (HAA). The HAA will be an unmanned, lighter-than-air vehicle that will serve as a telecommunications relay, weather observer or peacekeeper.

While the auto and aerospace industries remain strong, critical components of Ohio’s economy, the state is also aggressively pursuing new, advanced manufacturing technologies in a variety of industries to ensure the creation of knowledge-based jobs. In 2002, Governor Bob Taft introduced the ambitious Third Frontier Project to bring knowledge-based technology and jobs to Ohio. The project, Ohio’s largest economic development initiative ever launched, was designed to create thousands of new jobs throughout the state, expand research and development capabilities, promote new, high-tech company formation and develop state-of-the-art products. To date, $325 million of the $1.6 billion, 10-year project has been allocated toward projects that are already creating new products and developing technologies that are improving and saving lives.

The state also recently launched two new financing programs to assist businesses in research and development and the manufacturing sector. The Innovation Ohio Loan Fund is geared toward small- and mid-sized firms, helping provide financing assistance for developing next generation products in areas including: advanced materials; instruments, controls and electronics; power and propulsion; biosciences; and information technology. Similarly, the Research and Development Investment Loan Fund is available for Ohio businesses involved in research and development activities. Through the R&D Fund, the state will aggressively pursue research and development operations/facilities and fund the cost of capital purchases. These state funds often serve as catalysts for attracting additional funding by validating them as viable projects to federal and private sources.

For hundreds of years, Ohioans have been at the forefront of automotive and aviation industry and technology, helping to shape the worldwide landscape of both industries. Ohio remains committed to building on this success by making investments today that will pave the way for an even better tomorrow. As we look toward the future, it is the state’s established presence and proven competencies in the automotive and aerospace sectors that will provide Ohio with a firm edge in the pursuit of new research and products to propel both industries into the future.

 

About the Author

Bruce Johnson

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