IDEAS: Can Dayton emerge from COVID-19 a high-tech hub?

Catholic Central students, from left, Arianna Bravo, Kirsten Beals, Shane Fischer and Wil Hoffman try to build a tower thet will hold a tennis ball Thursday during the school’s Irish STEM Day. Bill Lackey/Staff
Catholic Central students, from left, Arianna Bravo, Kirsten Beals, Shane Fischer and Wil Hoffman try to build a tower thet will hold a tennis ball Thursday during the school’s Irish STEM Day. Bill Lackey/Staff

This guest column by Tom Raga, executive vice president at DPL Inc., appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Tuesday, Jan. 26.

Are we ready, Dayton?

The COVID–19 pandemic has driven many to work remotely and that has created opportunities for high tech workers to rethink how and where they want to live and work. Companies are also learning to access talent away from expensive metro areas to more favorable markets.

ExploreArchdeacon: Local businessman, philanthropist will pilot space station flight
Tom Raga is executive vice president at DPL Inc., the parent company of Dayton Power & Light and a member of the DDN’s Community Advisory Board
Tom Raga is executive vice president at DPL Inc., the parent company of Dayton Power & Light and a member of the DDN’s Community Advisory Board

For too long, we have heard that high-tech workers and companies won’t consider Dayton. Yet experts say it’s is all about “talent and tech,” and those who make it easiest for startups, will have more resilient economies and greater long-term prosperity.

ExploreDayton Daily News selects community leaders to help solve problems, focus coverage

Compared to the long commutes, high taxes, and unaffordable housing in places like Silicon Valley, we can and should compete for the talent and tech who are looking for the right mix of livability and a culture of innovation.

While we can’t change our weather, we can provide an unapparelled research environment, a pipeline of tech talent from some of the country’s best academic institutions, and with Ohio’s welcoming business environments, companies are starting to look here. Dayton can emerge as a high-tech hub, if we take the right steps.

“Compared to the long commutes, high taxes, and unaffordable housing in places like Silicon Valley, we can and should compete for the talent and tech who are looking for the right mix of livability and a culture of innovation”.

- Tom Raga

Dayton has some of the most affordable housing in the country and a thriving urban entertainment and living district. The Entrepreneur Center and others are building an incredible startup ecosystem. Angel investors are eager to connect to the innovations from the Air Force Research Labs and our academic research centers.

Yet, there is more that needs to be done. It’s about cultivating talent and building culture. It’s about focusing on strategies, policies, and supports that will give us that competitive edge. We need to be thoughtful about growing our own through better STEM Education and targeting certificate and degree incentives to fit the high-tech opportunities.

We need better digital access.

We need to work together to launch more projects like the Montgomery County CARES Digital Equity Initiative which is building the infrastructure needed to bring public WIFI to all parts of our region so kids can learn, and business can thrive.

ExploreDigital equity initiative continues with Chromebook distribution

Recently, AES, the parent company to Dayton Power & Light, announced the first U.S. Smart Operations Center right here in Dayton.

The AES Smart Operations Center will attract and employ advanced technology engineers and data scientists. AES considered sites across the country and chose Dayton to make this investment because of our region’s opportunities. We believe in the future and opportunities we have here.

ExploreDP&L opens $20 million ‘smart’ operations center

The COVID-19 pandemic has leveled the playing field. If companies like AES see our potential, Dayton should see it too. The Dayton region will be successful in attracting high tech talent, entrepreneurs, and businesses, if we are willing to do what it takes. Are we ready Dayton?

Archive photo of The Butler County Educational Service Center's Discover STEM, a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) conference.  STAFF FILE PHOTO
Archive photo of The Butler County Educational Service Center's Discover STEM, a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) conference. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Tom Raga is executive vice president at DPL Inc., the parent company of Dayton Power & Light and a member of the Dayton Daily News Community Advisory Board.

In Other News