It takes an ecosystem

Success rarely occurs in a vacuum. Today’s leaders know the secret to widespread economic and business growth is collaboration. Knowing how to identify and collaborate with strategic partners results in a product that is better than the sum of its parts.

In Northeast Ohio, leaders from many sectors are joining together to capitalize on a burgeoning semiconductor industry, driven in part by Intel’s $20 billion investment in its Ohio-based chip factories. And this fall, Lorain County Community College welcomed 300 representatives from the education, business, industry and government sectors to our campus for the Semiconductor Summit NEO, powered by Team NEO. The panelists, representing local, state and national institutions, engaged in energizing and insightful discussions around how our region can best capitalize on the opportunities available within the $1 trillion semiconductor industry. The open and honest dialogue focused on Northeast Ohio’s strengths and assets, and areas for growth and development.

As I listened to and participated in those discussions, the power of collaboration was woven throughout. The potential for job creation and economic prosperity within the chips and semiconductors industry is monumental. And so is the work our region needs to do in order to prepare for this opportunity. In fact, it’s estimated that our state needs to increase our current output, whether related to supply chain deliverables or the talent pipeline, by a factor of four. That’s a greater lift than one company or organization could ever do on its own. And just as LCCC served as the convening site for the summit, we will continue working at the intersection of industry, government and education as we all work toward this goal.

Equitable inclusion of the opportunities ahead will be imperative if we are to meet the talent needs of the growing chips and semiconductor industry. This is a statewide, multi-decade opportunity. Therefore, when forging long-term partnerships among industry and education, we all need to think beyond our geographic borders. The Ohio TechNet Northeast Ohio Semiconductor Workforce Consortium does just this. This network, led by LCCC alongside 10 other higher education partners, offers a strategic, collaborative solution to the needs of the growing semiconductor industry. The consortium focuses on a regional approach to leverage its strengths by developing, implementing and driving critical on-ramps into semiconductor technical areas, with statewide dissemination of its most successful programs via the network.

One shining example of an early stage on-ramp into the semiconductor industry can be found at Midview High School. Through a partnership with LCCC, Ridge Tool Co. and the Nord Family Foundation, the district recently opened a newly constructed cleanroom as part of its expanded career technical training programs. The cleanroom will be filled with high school students who intend to follow the micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) pathway, which leads directly into LCCC’s MEMS programs. This expanded technical career path will help fill the talent pipeline that, simply put, will not be adequately filled without more purposeful partnerships, like this one.

It is this level of mindful, outcome-focused collaboration that will lead to an even stronger economic future for Northeast Ohio. It took an ecosystem to draw the chips and semiconductor opportunities to Ohio. And it’ll take an ecosystem to capitalize on them to the fullest. Together, we can all help the region scale up by doubling down on our collective efforts. ●

Marcia J. Ballinger, Ph.D. is President of Lorain County Community College

Marcia J. Ballinger



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