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Author Rebecca Fannin sees promising future for the 'Silicon Heartland'

Author Rebecca Fannin signs her new book at Cintrifuse Tuesday April 11.
Courtesy Rebecca Fannin
Author Rebecca Fannin signs her new book at Cintrifuse Tuesday, April 11.

Ohio native presents her vision for Ohio's transition "from Rust Belt to Tech Belt" at a book talk and signing Tuesday at the Union Hall at Cintrifuse in Over-the-Rhine.

CNBC contributor Rebecca Fannin says Ohio could be well positioned for an industrial comeback with innovation hubs and job training programs boosted by Intel's $20-billion project to build two microchip factories northeast of Columbus.

"We have an opportunity to bring back the businesses that went overseas to China and rebuild industries in the Heartland," says Fannin, author of Silicon Heartland: Transforming the Midwest from Rust Belt to Tech Belt.

Fannin, who grew up in Lancaster southeast of Columbus, will host a panel discussion and tech chat at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 11, before her book signing at Cintrifuse, 1311 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine.

Intel's massive Ohio investment — which will create 7,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent positions with an average salary of about $130,000 — is located near New Albany, Ohio, about a half hour north of Fannin's hometown.

Intel has accelerated Ohio colleges and universities providing technical training to meet the demand, says Fannin, an Ohio University Scripps School of Journalism graduate and former Forbes columnist. She also has worked for Crain Communications in New York and in Silicon Valley during the dot-com boom.

In her first three books, Fannin's covered the tech and entrepreneurial boom in China in Silicon Dragon, Startup Asia and Tech Titans of China.

"I got into China really early on. I had good connections because of my work in Silicon Valley," she says.

During the pandemic, Fannin began researching the tech and entrepreneurial hubs in the Midwest. She put 10,000 miles on her Honda Pilot visiting Cincinnati, Dayton, Louisville, Lexington, Cleveland and dozens of other cities through the Great Lakes region and parts of Appalachia.

"So I've kind of come full circle," she says.

She describes Ohio as "ahead of the curve. Pennsylvania has more venture capital, but Ohio has more entrepreneurial scene and programs for training," she says.

Fannin praised the Ohio Third Frontier commitment to create new technology-based products, companies, industries and jobs; Jobs Ohio to boost innovation and increased capital investment; and the Drive Capital private investment firm that partners with entrepreneurs to build long-term, sustainable businesses.

Tuesday's free event in the Union Hall at Cintrifuse, 1311 Vine St., begins with registration and networking at 4 p.m.

Participants include Pete Blackshaw, CEO, Cintrifuse Syndicate Fund & Startup Catalyst; Guy Persaud, president, New Business/Innovation Unit, Procter & Gamble; Naashom Marx, director of strategic innovation, CVG International Airport; Ryan Hays, executive VP/chief innovation and strategy officer, University of Cincinnati; Tim Schigel, managing partner, Refinery Ventures; Derrick Braziel, co-founder and development director, Mortar; Joe Otto, team member and past CEO, Astonomer; and Luke Denny, co-founder and CEO, Frayt Technologies.

Fannin has spoken at SXSW, the Brookings Institution, Asia Society, Harvard, Yale and Oxford. In 2010, she formed as her own media and events group covering global innovation trends. Fannin also writes a weekly newsletter for her website. She also has been interviewed by NPR, The New York Times, BBC, Bloomberg and Fox News.

Silicon Heartland is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and PenguinRandomHouse.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.