Ohio State Leaders, Gov. DeWine Celebrate Progress Of New Innovation District
Amid cranes and heavy trucks, new buildings are sprouting up along the west side of Ohio State’s campus. It’s part of new innovation district meant to spur jobs in the STEM field.
School officials hosted the governor, lieutenant governor and head of JobsOhio to mark the placement of the last structural beam in a new interdisciplinary research facility. Ohio State president Kristina Johnson said it’s just the first of numerous facilities planned for the district.
“They will spark new public-private partnerships, seed new industries startups and a workforce, they’ll help us grow by orders of magnitude the potential for Ohio State to fuel growth in our region and this state,” she said.
The lab nearing completion will emphasize life sciences, conducting research on respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Nearby, facilities focusing on medical treatment and renewable energy are going up as well.
The state is investing $100 million, a tenth of the district’s overall budget, in exchange for OSU hitting benchmarks like increasing graduates in STEM.
In his remarks, DeWine was blunt about the project’s aims. According to governor, the district will, “not only take on very, very important research, but also create a lot of jobs. A lot of in-demand jobs.”
DeWine contends the district will create $3 billion in economic activity.
The governor also took the opportunity to encourage vaccinations and highlight recent recommendations for schools from the state health department.
“In our recommendations, we said number one the most powerful thing is vaccine,” DeWine said. ”And number two, if you’re not vaccinated, you clearly, clearly need to be wearing a mask.”
Wednesday morning, Franklin County Public Health and Columbus Public Health released a joint statement encouraging schools to adopt universal masking policies for students as well as a staff and faculty, regardless of vaccination status. Columbus City Schools announced universal masking guidelines last week.
To boost vaccination rates, DeWine is also planning to offer a cash incentive to state employees.
“We’re going to do what we have done in the past in regard to flu,” DeWine explains, “and that is we’re going to pay every employee $100 who gets the vaccination.”
The governor said the program will be retroactive, so employees who have already gotten shots will be eligible for the benefit as well.
Meanwhile, DeWine defended the process behind his selection of former PUCO chair Sam Randazzo. In a recent federal settlement, FirstEnergy admitted to bribing Randazzo before he assumed the post.
“The essential facts are we were looking for someone who had knowledge of the field,” DeWine said of his pick. “He had been on both sides of these issues. I mean, these issues usually come down to utility and consumers, and those are sort of the two interests. He’d been on both sides of that.”
Randazzo disclosed the multimillion dollar payment he received from FirstEnergy to DeWine’s then-chief of staff a few weeks before FBI officers raided Randazzo’s home. DeWine insists the first time he learned of the payment was the day of that raid.
The governor sidestepped questions about whether being left in the dark about that transaction has led him to set any new guidelines or policies with staffers.
“In hindsight, would we all have liked to have known the full set of facts back when we were putting our administration together? Sure, we would’ve loved to have known that information. We didn’t know that information at that point,” DeWine said.