The American Midwest is poised to make a triple somersault. The area, long known as the Corn belt, stretches from Ohio to Iowa, including the states south of the great lakes, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, large parts of Nebraska and Minnesota. And at the same time it was labeled the Rust Belt, to mark its deindustrialization and the loss of jobs in shuttered, rusty steel and car plants.
However, with the typical speed of American boom times, the area today is a real tech hub, going from Corn to Rust to Tech Belt, so much so it makes the richest areas of Silicon Valley blush with surprise and jealousy.
The growing success of cities like Columbus, the capital of Ohio, Indianapolis, Indiana’s capital, nicknamed Indy, which Forbes put in fifth place for its capacity to create tech jobs, show the entire Midwest is heading in a completely new destination. The push comes from Google, Amazon and other tech giants that have chosen these areas to develop huge logistical, distribution and production centers.
The future of the Midwest and the Columbus Miracle
Columbus, according to the Census, has fewer than a million residents, though it is the most populous city in the state. Built along the Scioto River, it hosts Ohio University and in the last five years it has seen a rapid growth in private sector investments. Intel has started the construction of two new advance semiconductor manufacturing plant, with an investment of $20 billion. Google is planning to spend $2billion on a new data center. Amgen has announced the construction of a new bio-production plant that will bring 400 jobs in assembly and packaging of pharmaceuticals. Amazon is preparing the second largest private investment in the history of the state, $7.8 billion for data center activities in central Ohio.
“Ohio has become very attractive for us,” said Shannon Kellogg, Amazon’s vice president for public policy. “It is even more attractive now that we continue operating there and building data centers. It’s a great deal for us.”
Grand investments to boost infrastructure
The new Tech Belt aims to attract high profile names like Apple of Tesla, and key financial players like Sequoia Capital, Accel or Andreessen Horowitz, that for now are just observing. Still, investments have quadrupled in the region in the last ten years and 18,000 startups were created. Tech talent is leaving the West Coast and Columbus and Indianapolis are seeing a demographic boom.
Basic infrastructure like roads, airports and water systems are keeping up the pace as new technology plants open up. The demand for builders of large public works is reawakening to to meet the demographic increase. Lane Construction (Webuild Group) has brought to the Midwest its know-how in terms of tunnels for excess water flows and safeguarding rivers and water basins with its projects in Fort Wayne (Indiana), Cleveland (Ohio) and Kansas City (Missouri).
It is too soon to see the effects of the shuttered factories turned around completely, but
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and his number two Jon Husted are convinced that tech jobs can transform the state’s economy. As long as the state’s leaders can quickly react to investors’ needs.