Innovation pushing region as a ‘game changer,’ business leaders say

The region’s work in technology and innovation was described Friday as “game changing” by a powerhouse of business leaders — including General Electric chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt.

“Industry will expand in places that have the talent to support advanced manufacturing, the leadership to provide a competitive business environment, and … the will to compete,” Immelt said. “Ohio gets this. It’s why GE has a rich history in the state and an equally strong future.”

Immelt noted the recent $1 billion contract awarded to GE by the U.S. Air Force as an example of partnering with the military to forge innovation. The contract will allow GE to continue work on a high-tech engine that could one day be used to power advanced combat jets while supporting good jobs in the region.

Nearly 12,000 people in Southwest Ohio work at GE, including two locations in the Dayton area.

Immelt and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman moderated a business panel discussion Friday at the University of Dayton’s research campus on key innovations progressing in Dayton and Ohio’s impact on global economic competitiveness.

Portman had a message for Ohioans: “Dayton is back on the cutting edge.”

Leaders across industries discussed the significance of technology’s role, the need for skilled workers, and the region’s resurgence in business.

Panelists included UD President Eric Spina; JP Nauseef, chairman and CEO of Krush Technologies; Anne Eiting Klamar, chair of Midmark Corp.; Doug Ebersole, executive director of the Air Force Research Laboratory; and Ed Purvis, the chief operating officer of Emerson Electric.

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Klamar said having leaders like Immelt and Portman visit Dayton starts critical conversations about the state’s role in the future of global economics.

“There’s just such a good vibe here, and there’s a little bit of a buzz going on here,” she said. “It’s about innovation, it’s about hard work, it’s about values — all the things Dayton is about. We’re talking about important topics like globalization and protectionism and what that means for small businesses and what we need to legislate in terms of regulation.”

Cao Dewang, chairman of Fuyoa, also attended — sitting in the front row of an audience of about 200 community and business leaders. The invite-only forum pulled in key players from across the region.

Panelists, including Ebersole, posed questions like: “How do we better commercialize the intellectual property we create?”

“Technology is a global business today and our partners come from all parts of the world,” Ebersole said. “Yet, some of our strongest ties are here in the local community and across the state. These partnerships enable the Air Force to deliver superior technologies that “keep the fight unfair.”

The leaders echoed sentiments of the need for more skilled engineers, manufacturing experts on the ground and college students willing to push the technology industry into the future. One of the most valuable components of a robust business sector is the relationship between businesses and higher education.

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Portman touted local universities for the partnerships formed with businesses like GE. Immelt said the company often hires interns and co-ops for full-time employment, and the experience is mutually beneficial for both students and business.

Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition, said starting conversations about innovation and technology shows that “Dayton is on the map.”

“Dayton, Ohio is not a fly-over state as people used to refer to us as. It’s a place people are stopping and doing business,” He said. “These are global companies doing amazing work here. Having people like Jeff Immelt and Senator Portman here is something Dayton and Ohio should be proud of. To me, it shows what we’re about to become.”

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