What you don’t know can hurt you. That’s the gist of a report and call to action from a new research foundation of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

The report is opportunistic, but that’s OK. Eyeing the upcoming gubernatorial election for a successor to term-limited Gov. John Kasich, the statewide business organization created its own research foundation 18 months ago to provide a fresh perspective on what it could take to move Ohio forward in a new administration.

The chamber’s work is commendable and worth a good look by both Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray, the major-party candidates vying to be Ohio’s next governor.

The report’s name defines its focus: "Ohio BOLD: A Blueprint for Accelerating the Innovation Economy." It was done for the chamber’s research foundation by TEConomy Partners LLC, a spinoff of Battelle.

Key problems the chamber identified are not new: stagnant statewide population, sluggish wage growth, increased poverty plus a graying population that overall could be more diverse.

These trends are harder for us to appreciate in central Ohio because we have bucked them, thanks to economic-development efforts including the work of Columbus 2020, and that’s part of how what we don’t know can hurt us.

Not knowing what’s happening elsewhere in the state diminishes Ohio’s effectiveness in attracting not only investment capital for new innovations but also the talent needed to grow business, the chamber report notes.

For example, Ohio could leverage its expertise in transportation research to draw in more dollars and skills, but the chamber learned in its research that a university doing that kind of work in one part of the state was unaware of similar work being done at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty.

To better brand and build Ohio’s innovation economy, the BOLD blueprint identifies four areas of opportunity best suited for what the state has to offer and encourages new public-private investment and a statewide focus to maximize returns. Those four platforms are in next-generation manufacturing, future health, smart infrastructure and data analytics.

The chamber offers ideas to help fund its recommended strategies through some combination of tax credits, proceeds from existing programs like JobsOhio and continued investment by regional programs like Rev1 in Columbus to promote tech entrepreneurs.

Brian Hicks, president of the chamber’s research foundation, said there is "a lot of money in the system already," but it could be better leveraged through a more collaborative statewide approach.

The initiative also calls for stepped-up efforts to keep students in the four innovation platforms in Ohio when they graduate, such as working with university alumni associations to draw back those who have already left the state. Student debt forgiveness for working in Ohio could be one effective approach, Hicks said.

Whether the next governor follows the chamber’s funding recommendations is less important than whether he concurs with its conclusion that Ohio can and must build its capacity as an innovation economy.

The building blocks are already here, and the chamber’s BOLD initiative does a good job of identifying exactly where they are across the state. The job of Ohio’s next chief executive will be to use them to build something greater than our patchwork of regional efforts has been able to create so far.

— Columbus Dispatch