A security cluster grows in Ohio

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08/25/2011

I saw an interesting story this morning in a Cleveland Heights publication about intelligent access control company FST21 establishing a demo center in the city of Cleveland Heights.

Turns out this is the beginning of a security business initiative designed to make Cleveland Heights a regional center for security technology development.

Howard Thompson, economic development director for Cleveland Heights, told me that he wants to establish Cleveland Heights as a hub for security manufacturers and integrators and installers. The effort will be branded as the “Smart Safe Security City Initiative.”

The “cluster” of security technology related business and initiatives will initially be located in a former school—called the Coventry School in Cleveland Heights. There are some business and non-profit organizations located there currently. FST21 will be establishing a Midwestern office in the Coventry School building and will also have a demonstration center. Thompson is working with FST21, SGI Global Business Advisors and other entities to get other security companies to locate in Cleveland Heights.

“The goal is to provide a high-quality and value added operating platform from which high-technology companies can develop and drive the region’s economic competitiveness,” according to an outline that Thompson sent me.

The former Coventry School building has 54,000 square feet, but there are other buildings in Cleveland Heights (including other former schools) that will be available and Thompson wants the new tenants to be security manufacturers and installers.

This “cluster approach” is a tested model Cleveland region, he said, citing the  “Cleveland Clinic’s biomedical cluster driven by BioEnterprise; aerospace cluster driven by NASA and the Ohio Aerospace Institute; energy cluster driven by Nortech and other economic entities.” No other Midwestern city is trying to develop a security cluster, he said.

Cleveland Height’s cluster will be driven by FST21. Thompson said plans are in the works for city officials and SGB Global executives to travel to Israel in January with FST21 CEOs Avi Lupo and Ahron Farkash to talk to other Israel-based security companies about establishing an office in the U.S., based in Cleveland Heights. Thompson and other partners will also be working to entice domestic security companies (including integrators) to locate in Cleveland Heights.

The initiative, if successful, would bring jobs and investment to this region, but what can Cleveland Heights offer businesses that locate here?

Thompson said the city will provide a liveable, affordable location for businesses. It will provide business leads for companies. (He said that FST21 has a project for the local police department on the books, and has had discussions with other public  and private sector companies in the area.)

The City of Cleveland Heights, working with the federal Small Business Administration, the Ohio Department of Economic Devleopment and the Monte Ahuja College of Business Administration at Cleveland State University will help companies find financial resources, as well as other business development resources such as marketing and sales help. “Those are the value-added resources,” he said. “I have federal block grants that I can use for business expansion and attraction and I’m looking for more,” Thompson said. “We’re very serious [and have the capability] to bring more resources to the table.”