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Biotech Means Jobs, But Don't Get Your Hopes Up Too High, Business Leader Warns

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For more than a decade, biotech has been building as an economic force across northeast Ohio, sprouting ventures ranging from medical imaging firms to health IT developers. Its success bodes well for creating economic growth and stability in the region, but one prominent business leader cautions its potential to create jobs is limited. Ideastream’s Brian Bull reports.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 11:56 pm

David L. Johnson is President and CEO of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, and was the keynote speaker at a “Cleveland Connects” forum on the region’s biotechnology industry held here at ideastream.

Johnson was quick to praise Greater Cleveland’s atmosphere of health, innovation, and technology-related development, or “innovation cluster strategy” But he also warned of challenges.

“The biggest challenge with all these clusters in the scientifically-intense, technology intense area, is….they do not produce jobs at the level anybody wants them to, in the time you want them to produce them. They just don’t.”

Northeast Ohio’s economy was hit hard when steel and automotive production took hits in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. Those witnessing the recent growth of biotech might expect a widespread revival of jobs to come with it.

But Johnson says don’t go there….

“For states like Ohio or states like Indiana, to say that 'We are going to employ 200,000, 300,000, 400,000 people in these cluster initiatives to replace the 200,000 -- 400,000 people who have left the automotive and steel industry, don’t do that! Because it will not happen."

Johnson says what biotech will do however, is create economic activity and financial wealth, and that will open opportunities for suppliers and vendors of goods ranging from specialized materials to office equipment. It will also ripple out to other sectors of the economy, he says, creating demand for services and entertainment.

Johnson praised northeast Ohio biotech companies for focusing on their unique assets and not trying to emulate Silicon Valley or larger hubs like San Francisco or Boston.

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