NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Ohio voters have approved a four-year, $700 million bond that extends to 2016 the "Third Frontier" program — a key funding source for many Buckeye State research institutions and their partners over the past decade.
According to unofficial results released by the office of Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, the Third Frontier extension — officially called State Issue 1 — passed with nearly 62 percent of the vote, racking up 1,033,812 votes to 642,305, or 38 percent, opposed.
In Cleveland's county of Cuyahoga, Third Frontier sailed to victory by a 71-29 percent margin — the same margin as in Columbus' county of Franklin. Cincinnati's county of Hamilton approved the bond issue more narrowly than the state as a whole, by a 60-40 percent edge. Statewide, Third Frontier won in all but 10 of Ohio's 88 counties. The narrowest support came 45 miles east of Cincinnati in Adams County, where the ballot question won by only seven votes, 1,911 to 1,904.
The Third Frontier extension benefited from a consensus of support among life sciences leaders, business leaders, and government officials of both political parties, led by Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat seeking re-election this year. The consensus promoted Third Frontier as a key tool in helping research institutes and life-science businesses recruiting researchers, building facilities, and pursuing research — all toward the broader goal of replacing the higher-wage manufacturing jobs and taxes that Ohio has steadily lost over the past generation.
According to figures from Ohio's Department of Development that were cited by pro-Third Frontier umbrella Group United for Jobs Ohio, Third Frontier helped create 54,983 jobs as of Dec. 31, 2009, as well as helping create, attract, or fund 637 companies, and generating nearly $4.8 billion in private investment. The job figure weighed heavily in Ohio, since the Buckeye State lost 635,000 jobs overall between January 2000 and January 2010.
Opponents said Third Frontier was little more than corporate welfare for life-science and other employers who benefit at the expense of non-tech job creators and their industries. But opposition never coalesced to match support for the bond measure; the umbrella group is expected to have spent more than $2 million on marketing efforts that included rallies, posters, endorsements from life sciences academic and industry leaders, and TV commercials.
The original Third Frontier program is a 10-year, $1.4 billion program — shrunk from $1.6 billion due to reduced state tobacco funding — set to expire in 2012. Third Frontier was launched in 2002 by Strickland's Republican predecessor Bob Taft, and has awarded more than $1 billion.