In October 2007, Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-17) and Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-04) co-hosted a meeting of opinion leaders from Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. The TechBelt Initiative began from this regional conversation aimed at developing a strategy to reinvigorate the Cleveland-to-Pittsburgh-to-Morgantown corridor and surrounding region. The continued transition to a technology and knowledge-based economy combined with our industrial and academic assets, dictates that the region is poised for renewed growth. To achieve success we must identify opportunities to collaborate in the creation of new products, technologies, companies and wealth. The conversation has resulted in the formation of a collaborative effort known as the TechBelt Initiative. At the beginning it was just two organizations, BioEnterprise and the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, working to advance the bio-economy of the region. Today there are dozens of organizations in three networks: Life Sciences, Energy and Manufacturing Innovation.
The TechBelt story over the past decade is one of profound economic reality on one hand and visionary leadership on the other. The Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia region demonstrates a strong concentration of manufacturing employment that, over the past few years, has felt the continued transition of the U.S. economy. This transition has been painful to many of the communities throughout the region as anchor employers close their doors and jobs are lost.
There are still many, however, who view this transformation as an opportunity that, through ingenuity and investment, new opportunities are being created. For many years, this mega-region has been working diligently to transition its economies toward more technology-based opportunities to ensure a bright future as it relates to job growth, per capita income, and other measures.
Ohio and Pennsylvania governments have led the country with the creation of initiatives to support communities going through economic transformation. The Ohio Third Frontier initiative and Pennsylvania Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority have committed over $600 million to TBED activity in the region. These investments have created and continue to support programs; research, technology infrastructure and opportunities for the region to expand the strength and sheer number of technology based economic opportunities. The global economy is experiencing the most significant turbulence in a generation, which is likely to have profound impacts for regions throughout the U.S. The TechBelt region has survived this kind of turmoil in the past and now has the experience and the infrastructure to adapt to a changing economy. Regional leaders are optimistic that the investments made and the collaboration represented by TechBelt will enable the region to continue to transform. More must be done however to build on state and regional investments and attract federal and external capital to accelerate the pace of change.
The TechBelt Initiative unites the assets that have been created in the TechBelt communities and demonstrates the strength in numbers.