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Ohio's work-life climate is big draw for those tired of the rat race

Joel Ivers, CEO of NanoDectection Technology. Photos Mark Bowen, Ben French and Scott Beseler
Joel Ivers, CEO of NanoDectection Technology. Photos Mark Bowen, Ben French and Scott Beseler
If you've ever awakened at an obscenely early hour to make a more-than-one-hour drive to work in heavy traffic -- possibly missing important meetings before even arriving due to delays on the way, and feeling like you've put in full day just getting the kids off to school and yourself into the office -- then you know how important balance between work and life can be.

For stressed-out business professionals who want to step off the treadmill and get their lives back, we've got the answer: "Welcome to Ohio."

Our state offers the best of both worlds -- success at work and in your personal life -- by giving businesspeople cities without clogged highways, and small, livable communities within easy driving distance of major universities and cultural centers -- not to mention excellent schools and a reasonable cost of living.

"We have business executives telling us 'I have more time here than I've ever had in my career to pursue my personal passions,'" says Ed Burghard, executive director of the Ohio Business Development Coalition. "In (big cities) you are forced to choose between work and family. Here you can have both."

Joel Ivers, CEO of NanoDectection Technology in Cincinnati, says he has altered his career path in order stay in Ohio because of the appealing lifestyle he found here after leaving Southern California over 30 years ago.

"I have turned down three different offers to move to (larger metropolitan areas) in order to stay in Ohio," he says. "The schools are better here. The affordability is better here. It's much more desirable to live here."

Former Chicagoan Brooke Paul, a technology entrepreneur who lives in Columbus, says he spent lots of time staring out the windshield of his car when he lived in Chicago.

"I easily had a two-hour commute," he says. "In Columbus it's a half hour to get anywhere."

Ironically, Paul notes that with an easy drive to the Columbus airport now and with the time difference between Chicago and Columbus, he can fly there and get to a meeting in almost the same amount of time it took him to drive to downtown Chicago from his home in the suburbs.

East Coast cities are also a short plane trip away. "The Columbus airport is easy to get into and it's not expensive."

There's also the quality-of-life factors, he adds.

"I can send my kids to better schools. I can join a better gym; buy a better house. You can get a lot more office here for your money than you can in a big city too."

Jennifer Simon, director of the Ohio University Innovation Center in Athens, says she sees business professionals who frequently talk about wanting more from their personal lives and who say that living in Ohio gives them that opportunity.

"A lot of what we've heard is that people really enjoy the family environment," she says. "They are involved with their kids' schools and they see their children being given opportunities to participate in everything from sports and drama to dance and art."

She admits that it may take a little more looking to find high adventure than it would in a bigger metropolitan area, but it is there.

"If you're a person who doesn't seek out things to do you might have a hard time. But if you look, it's amazing what you can find."

Chris Ostoich, founder and CEO of Blackbook EMG of Cincinnati, a human resources management firm that helps assimilate employees into a new company and community, says he is one who bucked social trends and stayed in Ohio as a young single professional after graduating from the University of Cincinnati. There's plenty here to enrich the lives of young professionals, he says, but sometimes you have do a little homework to find what you're looking for.

"Each neighborhood has secrets and great things to do," he says of Cincinnati. "But you might have to hunt a little to find them.

"The people who are from here are the ones who tend to throw this place under the bus," he says with a laugh. "If you're from somewhere else you know how great it is live here."

Nonetheless, in his business he still meets young professionals who have doubts about a move to the heart of the Midwest.

"Sometimes we do get someone who likes a job here, but questions the location," he says. "But when they find they can live here and have a full life at a fraction of the cost of a (major city) they are usually very happy. Once they make the commitment, they become (Ohio's) strongest advocates."
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