General Lester Lyles (USAF retired)
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Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was my training ground and the final command of my 35-year military career. My years of service there gave me a love for Ohio, an appreciation for the industrious spirit of Ohioans and some ideas about the elements that will shape its future. Thanks to the trust of Governor DeWine in appointing me to the Board of JobsOhio in 2019, I have been given an opportunity to continue to participate in Ohio’s progress.

There are significant parallels between leading a major military facility and building a thriving State economy. Both have rich histories that precede any new leadership and provide the foundations on which they will build.

Through more than 200 years of history, hard work and ingenuity, Ohio has been home to the founders of flight, inventors of lights and pioneers of industries from agribusiness to aerospace, autos to energy, manufacturing to military, healthcare and finance, all driven by a ready workforce with the transportation and logistics to go to market. It is Ohio’s heritage and the wellspring of its future.

Likewise, Wright-Patterson grew from an airfield for flight testing in 1904 to become the Materiel Command headquarters for the U.S. Air Force in 1992. Now home to the Air Force Institute of Technology, the Air Force Research Laboratory, National Air and Space Intelligence Center, Life Cycle Management Center and a major USAF Medical Center, Wright-Patt is one of the largest and most diversified military facilities in the world. And it is a microcosm within Ohio that taught me bigger lessons about the integration of diverse resources and the importance of people in driving the success of teams and missions — including the State’s mission of economic development.

The first rule of any mission is to have an objective. The second is to understand any opposition you will face. The third is to equip your team to succeed.

The State of Ohio together with its business leaders, universities, communities and workforce have a mission: to become America’s new center of gravity in the next generation, digitally-enabled economy. A center of excellence in 10 essential industrial sectors ranging from life sciences and technology to advanced manufacturing, autonomous mobility, aerospace, financial services, healthcare, food, logistics and energy. The mission is both bold and attainable. The seeds of success are already rooted here.

But the path forward is congested with contenders. Ohio faces “friendly fire” from other U.S. state development agencies and a host of fair and unfair competitive practices from foreign nations seeking corporate investment and the jobs that come with it. Fortunately, Ohio’s leaders understood their competitors well and took appropriate countermeasures in establishing and equipping JobsOhio, the State’s economic development team.

Founded 10 years ago, JobsOhio is built to compete on behalf of the people of Ohio. It is a first-of-its-kind, state-authorized, private sector non-profit that takes the profits from Ohio’s successful beverage enterprise and pays it forward to attract and expand businesses, payrolls and career opportunities that inspire yet more investment, jobs and opportunity for generations of Ohioans to come.

In making Ohio the next hub of innovation, JobsOhio is a sprocket. The professional staff is composed of industry veterans and entrepreneurs, engaged with every link of Ohio’s collaborative chain — helping propel the State’s ingenuity and ambition forward. They engage and collaborate effectively with government officials, as well as the State’s regional economic development organizations, universities and a multitude of business sector organizations representing the largest corporations to small and medium sized businesses across Ohio.

The results have been impressive. From Innovation Districts and major industrial expansions to startup venture capital and underserved business loan programs, JobsOhio’s business development and investment strategies have helped save over 590,000 Ohio jobs and attracted $64 billion in new investment and more than 210,000 in new jobs to the State since 2011. And their partnerships with educators and career counsellors are helping assure that Ohio’s workforce is ready, skilled and available to build careers and take those businesses forward.

Over the past year, I have been particularly proud to witness JobsOhio’s initiatives to help mobilize the collective power of the business community to help the whole community in securing PPE and other vital needs during the pandemic. Their work is illustrative of my fundamental belief in the power of positive people to overcome negative challenges through constructive collaboration.

As Ohioans emerge from both a contentious political year and all the personal tragedies and economic dislocations associated with the pandemic, it is fitting to focus on all the good that can be accomplished when people work together toward a shared mission. Sustainable and prosperous Ohio communities propelled good paying jobs for the hard-working people of Ohio sounds like such a mission to me.