June 28, 2004: Headlines: COS - Tanzania: Politics: Newark Advocate: RPCV Bob Taft wants Third Frontier to last beyond term

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tanzania: Special Report: Ohio Governor Bob Taft, RPCV Tanzania: June 28, 2004: Headlines: COS - Tanzania: Politics: Newark Advocate: RPCV Bob Taft wants Third Frontier to last beyond term

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RPCV Bob Taft wants Third Frontier to last beyond term

RPCV Bob Taft wants Third Frontier to last beyond term

RPCV Bob Taft wants Third Frontier to last beyond term

Taft wants Third Frontier to last beyond term


COLUMBUS (AP) -- Gov. Bob Taft says reviving Ohio's economy by attracting technology jobs will take more time than the two and a half years he has left in office.

He hasn't yet decided if he wants to try again to ask voters to secure the final piece of his most ambitious project, the Third Frontier, to pump $1.6 billion into projects such as biotechnology, hydrogen-based fuel for cars, or advanced electronics.

Voters last November narrowly defeated the final piece of that 10-year project, which would have allowed the state to borrow $500 million over 10 years. Analysts say Taft risks becoming a two-time loser if he goes to the ballot again, or looking as if he's abandoning the project if he doesn't.

"We hope to build a sustainable foundation for the Third Frontier project before I leave office," Taft said last week following a ceremony presenting awards to top Ohio exporters. "One of our goals is to really lock in the Third Frontier program because it's not a program that's going to transform our economy overnight."

Lawmakers have approved nearly $220 million for the project since July 2002, and all but $6 million has been awarded to universities and private companies, which must raise private funding equal to almost double the state grant.

The legislature likely will keep finding money from the tobacco settlement fund or capital budget, but Taft said the tight budgets usually leave the initiative tens of millions short of the goal.

"With voter approval, you have significant momentum to continue the project," Ohio Development Director Bruce Johnson said.

Taft said he'll first have to gauge support both for raising money for a campaign and for winning it.

Fellow Republicans and officials in the administration have said the November 2005 election, when there are mayoral elections in cities that have favored the plan and benefit from it, would be a good time to woo voters.

"We think it's the right strategy," Johnson said.

Losing a second time at the polls would be better than not trying, said Dean Lacy, associate professor of political science at Ohio State University.

"It's a gamble worth taking for the state," he said. "Last time, it wasn't explained well for voters."

Public money attracts private money, he said, and the industries the Third Frontier attracts are the type hiring Ohio State graduates away from the state, Lacy said.

"The kinds of jobs Ohio has right now aren't keeping them here," he said.

The risk of losing again might deter Taft if he's thinking about running for Congress or other office later, said Nancy Martorano, a University of Dayton political scientist.

"There's a risk there he'll look bad historically if he loses twice," she said. "He might be trying to go back and try to sell it better. That way he can leave office on a high note."

Taft said he hasn't considered any specific proposal, but a plan for a ballot question seeking $850 million in bonds is in the House Finance Committee. The extra $350 million is to boost research, equipment and training for agriculture and manufacturing -- industries that protested they were ignored in last fall's initiative.

Rep. James Trakas, a Republican from Independence, said he has the support of 42 House members and would need 60 to get the question on the ballot.

"It's critically important to the state's economy," he said. "Gov. Taft has been our leader who had the vision for this. This is among his greatest legacies should we get this through."

Third Frontier grants have already created jobs and brought in royalties for Diagnostic Hybrids Inc., an Athens-based biotechnology company, said Dave Scholl, president and chief executive. The company developed a test for Graves' disease, a thyroid condition, with Ohio University and now is working on a viral vaccine with University Hospitals of Cleveland.

Scholl backed the first ballot question and would do so again.

"It's a critical program to life sciences," he said. "What it allows us to do is leverage some high risk research by putting up an amount of money but not all of it."

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Story Source: Newark Advocate

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