Ron Rock is the Managing Director, Financial Services at JobsOhio, a private nonprofit corporation designed to drive job creation and new capital investment in Ohio through business attraction, retention and expansion efforts. Ron was interviewed by Michael Fiedel, a Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio and Co-Founder at PolicyFly, Inc.
Ron, how is Ohio continuing to become more of a tech-led powerhouse today than ever before?
“We’re seeing more and more organizations dedicate workforce to innovation and technology. With Ohio having so many insurance companies and banks headquartered in the state, that leads to quite a few teams focused on new technologies. That focus is either building organically or they are looking to partner with insurtech or fintech companies. To top it off, Ohio has such a diverse, resilient economy that there’s a slightly better probability of success for a business or product launch. Those factors made it possible for Ohio to become the fourth largest financial services economy in the United States.”
Why should emerging insurance startups invest their time attending and networking at conferences, as well as applying for industry recognition and awards?
“For the same reason I attend and network at conferences – you need to get the word out about your success. What better way to highlight your product than to drive awareness through attending events or applying for awards? I’ve seen products and companies gain lots of traction over the past year or two through earning multiple insurtech or fintech awards. Once the awareness and rapport grows, your foot gets in the door that much more easily. Our team at JobsOhio is similar – we are looking for different ways to show Ohio is the place to be. A strong example is how the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit will take place in Ohio for the next 3 years.”
What are some of the characteristics of high-growth companies that JobsOhio is looking to support?
“JobsOhio is constantly evolving to ensure we are supporting a wide range of businesses. We have core programs that incentivize more established businesses ready to grow, and we also have newer programs that support early stage companies through convertible debt or equity. Companies like Branch or Beam Benefits have utilized our core programs. Companies like Cincinnati Insurance or Grange Insurance have used our R&D grants to pursue innovation. Companies like AKRU and Ovation CXM have been part of the JobsOhio Growth Capital Fund. For JOGC, we have a prequalification questionnaire that can be found on our website.”
In what ways are you seeing economic groups and communities across Ohio’s three C’s, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, working more closely together?
“The biggest way I’ve seen is through social events and smaller ‘conferences’ led by organizations in the state. Being able to amplify your business, product or even thought leadership using these platforms is a way to springboard to broader national or global events. Ohio doesn’t have a really large city like NYC or LA, but what we do have are three solid metropolitan areas that help make Ohio a great place to live, work, invest and live your American dream.”
What key predictions for 2024 can you share with us?
“That’s a tough one. We’ve seen a lot of factors creating headwinds for the economy. 2023 has been slow from an economic development standpoint, but we’ve still had some solid wins at JobsOhio. 2024 doesn’t appear to be much different due to the many economist outlooks. For financial services, I think leaders need to be thinking about optimizing customer experience, how to use data and AI to run their business more efficiently and pursuing partnerships or investments with insurtechs or fintechs – TONS of them out there. What better place to be than Ohio?”