The nonprofit BioEnterprise, with offices in Cleveland and Akron, was founded in 2002. Organizers wanted to speed the growth of medical businesses and bioscience technology by emphasizing the strengths of Northeast Ohio as a whole to venture capitalists.
The same argument can be made for expanding the focus to include Pittsburgh, a major market closer to Akron than Ohio's own state capital, BioEnterprise Chief Executive Officer Baiju Shah said.
``The premise is if you combine the health care assets and activities in both regions, you get to a new level of national significance'' that could rival bioscience hotbeds like Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, he said.
BioEnterprise and its counterpart in Pittsburgh will continue to operate as separate organizations, making their regular rounds to both coasts to knock on the doors of investors.
But now, both will plug health care companies from Northeast Ohio and Southwest Pennsylvania.
Most people outside of this area don't realize the two areas are less than two hours apart, Shah said. But we belong to a single economy, he told 500 gathered for a BioEnterprise-sponsored conference on the Cleveland Clinic campus Tuesday, where he announced the new strategy.
He made his point by showing a night shot of the United States from space, where the lights of Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Youngstown and Pittsburgh blend together.
That visual of urban blending is a powerful metaphor and could serve as a unifying concept for a regional identity. Not surprising to this blog, Pop City notes that the Cleveburgh innovation corridor concept was part of the Great Lakes Region economic development plan. Underlying these initiatives is an attempt to forge a coherent landscape that could attract investment and jumpstart the Rust Belt economy.
While I appreciate the attempt to build a more advantageous geography, I'm concerned about the inclination to only dream in contiguous spaces. The Green Building Alliance might benefit similar programs in nearby Cleveland, but the green building network is not so conveniently located:
Though a mid-market city, Pittsburgh is frequently recognized as a hot-bed of green building activity, a leader among U.S. cities, ranking alongside San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. (Yes, Pittsburgh!) And, from an economic development perspective, this activity is generating a cluster of product and services businesses specializing in green buildings, with revenue opportunities far beyond the Pittsburgh region.
Is Cleveland's proximity really that important in terms of collaboration? Might a deeper relationship with biotech in Boston prove to be more beneficial to Pittsburgh? I would think first about global connectivity before visiting the regional relationships.