On Episode 24 of Calfee NOW, Michael Bowen, Associate with Calfee's Government Relations and Legislation practice group, spoke with Chris Berry, President and CEO of OhioX. OhioX is a nonprofit organization that represents and connects those committed to growing Ohio’s economy through technology and innovation.
Topics discussed included:
- How OhioX promotes Ohio as a place for tech.
- The state of Ohio's booming tech economy and how it ties into all industries.
- What Intel coming to Columbus means for the tech industry.
- How OhioX interacts with Government professionals to better serve its members.
Okay, like to welcome everybody to another Calfee NOW with a good friend of mine, a class of 2009 Miami grad. So I know this is going to be a good one. Uh, Chris Berry, he's the president and CEO of Ohio X. So Chris, thanks for joining us here for another coffee Now. How are you doing today?
I'm good. How are you, Mike?
Hey, I'm doing great. So I guess to start off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and just give a little background and then we'll go in, uh, how you landed at Ohio X and actually created Ohio X.
Yeah, sure. Well thanks for having me to start. As you mentioned, I'm the president CEO of Ohio X, um, Columbus based now, but I grew up in northeastern Ohio. Went to schools you alluded to, in southwestern Ohio, Miami University where uh, our fellow classmate just won the Super Bowl, Sean McVey with the Rams, which was pretty cool for, for us Red Hawks. But, um, yeah, a little bit about me, you know, presidency of Ohio X but as I mentioned, kind of been across the state and that really led me to what I eventually I do now at Ohio X, but have spent time working in government, both in Washington DC but also in Columbus, uh, and state government. And then spent some time in the private sector, which eventually led me to Ohio X, uh, and helping build and create the first Ohio X that we have today, which has been a lot of fun.
Well, you're, you have helped me out and it's a perfect transition into what is Ohio X and you know, kind of what was its origins and kind of what made you move forward for us for the viewers who don't know what Ohio X is.
Sure. Yeah. So Ohio X, we're a statewide nonprofit working with the mission and goal of helping build Ohio into a tech hub. Um, so that's who, you know, what we do in the mission behind it. But really what we are is we're a trade association. So we're a 501 C-6 nonprofit. There's a lot of great chambers and trade associations out there, but we do it for tech, for the tech and innovation economy. And so our members, which make our work possible are everything from Fortune 500 companies, both headquartered here and headquartered across the United States, but that have Ohio employees, um, all the way down to startups and some of Ohio's next, uh, growing and emerging big tech companies. But we also have small, medium sized businesses. We have universities and hospital systems because what we believe is every company, every organization is now a tech company. Um, and so with that, you know, there's so many companies and organizations big and small that are passionate about the tech economy. Um, that's everything from the workforce side of it to the promotion and promoting Ohio as a place for tech. And so it's an incredibly exciting time and it's a lot of fun to do what we do at Ohio X.
Absolutely. So taking a step back, talk to me a little bit about the kind of climate of technology in Ohio. Um, you know, as an outsider looking in, it seems like technology is, uh, the technology industry is booming in Ohio and it's obviously increasingly, uh, becoming more important, but, you know, you're the expert. So tell us a little bit about that and, and what you think about technology in Ohio right now.
Now. Well, first, you're not giving yourself enough credit. I know that you go all about what's happening, but thanks for teeing me up, <laugh>. It's an exciting time for tech and Ohio and our state. And what's really interesting, you know, we know you're Cleveland based. I'm Columbus based, um, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo and Akron and Canton, Youngstown. You can kind of look all across the state, all corners, all 88 counties and you can find an awesome tech story. Intel is the big news and that's something that really put Ohio on the map. Intel CEO and others have been calling us the silicon heartland now. Um, so it's really cool to see Ohio get this global recognition, but we have a booming tech economy. What's interesting about tech, it can be Intel one of the largest companies in the United States. Um, it can be growing startups that just maybe have two or three or four employees that are going to be doubling or tripling or quadrupling and employee count.
Um, but there's also just growing and scaling companies that are bringing innovation to places that Ohio is historically great at. So, you know, what is our economy made of? A lot of it is financial services, insurance, healthcare, manufacturing, farming and agriculture. There's tech and there's innovation happening in all of those. And so you can kind of pick anything that you are interested in, again, whether it's healthcare, and you can find out about the Cleveland Innovation District and what groups like university hospitals and Metro Health and the Cleveland Clinic are doing. You can pick manufacturing the same thing, you can pick insurance, something that, you know, Ohio has a lot of great insurance companies and in Columbus specifically and in other cities too, there's been this InsureTech hub that's been built up that has literally created thousands of jobs, uh, and it's bringing, uh, innovation to the insurance industry. So it's a really, really exciting time. And what's fun is it's stuff that we've been good at for a really long time. So just kind of building that next wave of innovation.
And, and so you mentioned obviously the big hot topic now is Intel and everybody's talking about Intel, Intel coming to Columbus. Talk to us a little bit about what you think Intel coming to Columbus means for the tech industry, whether it's jobs, whether it, whatever it may be. I mean, I think you probably have an inside look at what intel means coming to the state of Ohio.
Yeah, and, and you know, it's coming to Columbus, it's coming to New Albany, central Ohio, but I think the reverberations are going to be really felt everywhere. And we'll start with talent. You know, one of the big things and why they chose Ohio is because of our colleges, our two-year community colleges, our four year universities, and the amount of talent that they can pump out and make sure that Intel and people that are going to be working with Intel and other tech companies, they have that talent. And so talent's exciting. Um, then you look at kind of the suppliers and there's going to be a ton of businesses that are popping up to help supply intel or to do business in that kind of general space. And then on top of that, you know, they're going to be hiring a lot of people both on the tech side and then construction and manufacturing to build the facilities.
And for something like that, you know, the interesting thing about tech is there's a lot of brilliant people that have four-year degrees in commuter science or PhD in, you know, mathematics or kind of data and analytics. But there's also going to be a lot of career opportunities for people that just have say, you know, high school degrees and they've gotten certificates. And so there's going to be a ton of opportunities all across the state with Intel. Um, and that's really exciting because yeah, it's coming to Columbus, but Cleveland and Cincinnati and Dayton and Toledo, you know, that's going to help our entire tech economy.
Absolutely. And so I'm going to throw you a curve ball question here.
The, the future of technology in Ohio, you know, what are some of the industries that you believe are the hot industries of technology moving forward? And even outside of Ohio, just in general, some of the hot, you know, industries of technology moving forward.
Yeah, again, I think as I kind of mentioned, so to answer, you know, share a little bit from before about how, you know, there's a lot of work and pillars that we're good at. So the healthcare, the manufacturing, and you look at Intel, right? Like that's manufacturing, but it's manufacturing tech. You look at the Cleveland Innovation District and what they're doing with the clinic and uh, and Metro Health, that's healthcare, but it's healthcare innovation. Same thing with insurance. Those things are popping up. Um, the insured tech companies, the startups are, that are bringing innovation to that space. You know, there's cool stuff in agriculture. So I think there's this continuation of what we've been good at where our kind of pillar, you know, economy pieces are, and we're just seeing new growth built on top of that. Um, but I'll add another FinTech. I think there's a lot of exciting work and a lot of exciting kind of companies. It's, you know, truly disrupting everything when you think of kind of the future of finance, and you have blockchain and cryptocurrencies and all of that. Um, so it, it's kind of this combination in meld, but it all comes back to what our state and our people are good at and have really been leaders at for a long time.
Sure, sure. And I'm going to throw you one more curve ball here. So, you know, obviously I'm a government relations professional. You worked in the government in the past, you know, how does the technology industry, why did you feel there was a need for an association for technology and, and how do you interact with the government? You know, as you're sitting with a state legislator or the governor or whoever may be, what, what kind of conversations are you having?
Yeah, so you know, first and foremost is there's a lot of groups like Ohio X that exists all across the country. And so as we kind of had this idea to kind of build something for tech in Ohio, we looked across the US and solve it in a lot of other states, there's groups like ours. So one of the, the most fun aspects that I've had in doing Ohio X now for about two years is doing outreach to all those other states and talking with their presidents and CEOs of their respectable Ohio X organization and seeing how they do it and why they do it. And we've been able to learn from them and I think share some of our new ideas with them as well. Um, and so what was interesting was it isn't really a new idea, but it is a bit of a new idea for Ohio.
And that was kind of the big thing because as we've been talking about in a lot of this conversation is tech is every sector in every industry. So I think times, a lot of times people often take for granted tech and thinking that, well, it is a function of a business, a part of a bigger sector or industry. Well, that's not the case. Like tech is its own standalone thing. And so it can be around workforce, it can be around investment capital, taxes. You know, some of the companies we work with, they don't have a physical space. They are literally distributed where they don't even have an office. A lot of times employees have never met one another because they might be living in different parts of Ohio or different parts of the world. So there's a lot of things that are very unique to tech companies that aren't, you know, shared or similar to manufacturing or construction or some more traditional industries that have physical centers, have physical locations and everyone, you know, works within a, you know, a 10 mile radius or something like that.
So there's a lot of interesting things with tech that you don't necessarily see in other places. And tech is now starting to kind of stand up on its own, certainly in Ohio has its own kind of industry, um, that has its own challenges, has its own uniqueness. And so for us, you know, kind of the top three things we hear from our companies and our members is around talent. They have to have the, the tech workforce in order to compete, uh, in order to grow. Second one is just kind of promotion, because historically a lot of times people think tech only exists in Silicon Valley or New York or Boston or Seattle, but we want to be able to tell that story. Things like Intel go a really long way in helping us achieve that. Then the third is capital. Um, most venture capital dollars, which is kind of the lifeblood for a lot of tech companies, especially as they're getting up and running, you know, go to California, goes to New York and it goes to places like Seattle again or Boston. Um, that's starting to slowly change. Ohio Tech has gotten more investments than we ever have before, um, but the percentage is still fairly relative to the rest of the country and that's got to change because you have to have money in order to build and if you can't have, if you don't have the money, you can't build.
Absolutely. And so we have a lot of clients who watch these. So are there any events or anything coming up where some of our clients could get involved with Ohio X or start to learn a little bit more? I know, you know, like you said, this is a two year old organization and kind of in the infancy. So if we wanted to push our clients to some events, is there anywhere they could go?
Yeah, absolutely. The biggest thing is go to our website, Ohiox.org, you're going to be able to see all our events, all our media, everything in that we're doing. We're telling the story of tech every single day so you can discover, you know, what people and companies and ideas are existing in this space. But our big thing coming up is the Ohio Tech Summit. It's actually going to be in Cleveland on Saturday, April 23rd. So that's coming up. We're doing our gov tech summit, which brings public policy makers, elected officials, the tech community together, uh, to have conversations that's going to be in mid-May. Uh, and then we have a whole host and lineup of stuff throughout the rest of the year. Every year we host an annual Ohio Tech Day, which is on the last Friday in September, this year's Friday, September 30th. And that's our day to celebrate tech in the state, but also get kids excited. So it's our next generation of technology Pros, innovators, um, and help them see all the different career opportunities, all the different things that they can do within the tech space. Um, and we welcome every company, every school, every nonprofit to participate in that one too.
Absolutely. And then this is kind of the open freestyle portion of the, uh, program. So if there's anything you want to say to our clients, you know, our lawyers, our clients are listening, you know, I'll give you the floor in in closing.
Yeah. The, I mean the biggest thing is it really is an exciting time for tech in our state and you know, it's not because of us, we're newer and we're growing and we're kind of building up as we go, but so is tech in in Ohio and that's what's really fun is it's still early and there's still opportunities for ideas, there's still opportunities for people to get involved. You know, whether it's helping bring new business here or helping build new companies or people that are looking for new career opportunities. We're just looking to support the ecosystem. That's the biggest thing I would say. And it's early, which means it's fun. And so we really love what we get to do and we have to thank our members. Um, without them it wouldn't make any of our work possible. And so, um, people can always, you know, join if they want to, but just go to Ohio x.org, you can learn all about us.
Well, absolutely, Chris. Well, you know, we appreciate your time and we will, uh, we'll probably circle back in a year and a half, two years now for the update and see kind of where we are in the state of Ohio. But, um, thank you for your time and this was another coffee now. Uh, appreciate everybody tuning in. Thanks.
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