Akron area leaders are hoping to lure investment money from the coasts to the heartland.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, whose district includes part of Summit County, brought venture capitalists — many of them from the West Coast — to Akron on Wednesday as part of his Comeback Cities bus tour.

“We have all this wealth in places like Silicon Valley, all these venture capital funds [in the United States], but 80 percent of that venture capital money goes to [companies in] three states — California, New York and Massachusetts,” Ryan said in an interview at one of the Akron stops, the Bounce Innovation Hub, the business incubator/resource facility for entrepreneurs in the old B.F. Goodrich factory complex in downtown.

Companies in Ohio, meanwhile, attract and estimated less than 2 percent of capital investment from venture funds in the United States.

Ryan said the tour is about exposing the venture capitalists to the “sophistication, technology, small businesses and opportunity for growth here in Akron,” as well as in other tour stops.

“The economics work out here,” Ryan noted, saying that wages and real estate costs are considerably lower in Northeast Ohio than on the coasts.

“You can pay an engineer, a computer scientist out of the University of Akron $60,000,” Ryan said, “and in California you’re paying them $110,000, $120,000 a year.”

The tour is a nonpartisan one, with the venture capitalists meeting with businesses and elected officials “on both sides of the aisle,” according to a media advisory.

The tour began Wednesday morning in Youngstown — the Mahoning Valley also is part of Ryan’s district — and continues Thursday, with stops in Detroit and Flint, Mich., and wraps up Friday in South Bend, Ind.

Joining the venture capitalists and Ryan on the tour is U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., whose district includes a big part of Silicon Valley. Khanna has traveled to Middle America before to see how Silicon Valley might be able to boost heartland economies.

Khanna is interested in “sharing the wealth,” Ryan said while speaking at a roundtable discussion Wednesday at Bounce Innovation Hub.

Venture capitalists on the tour include Robert Wolf, a former president and chief operating officer of UBS Investment Bank, and J.D. Vance, author of the best-selling Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, about Vance’s journey from an Appalachian family to Yale Law School.

Vance is one of several on the tour not based in the San Francisco area. Vance, who grew up in Middletown, Ohio, and is a graduate of Ohio State University, last year moved to Columbus from Silicon Valley.

Venture capitalist Patrick McKenna, vice president of High Ridge Venture Partners in the San Francisco Bay area, said he searches out investment opportunities in places outside of Silicon Valley, such as Portland, Maine, and Youngstown, where he’s invested in a startup, as well as a Northeast Ohio venture capital fund.

These areas, as well as Akron, he said, offer investors the benefit of collaboration between civic, education and business leaders.

“That’s what gives me confidence in willing to make these investments,” he said. “I’m investing in a community as well.... The community support is essential.”

At the roundtable discussion, the venture capitalists met with founders of Akron tech companies, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro, and Kim Lee, director of the Minority Business Assistance Center at the Akron Urban League, among others.

Horrigan told the visitors about a new partnership with eBay aimed at promoting small retailers in the city.

Startups represented included Segmint, developer of software used to analyze data for customers, and Komae, the baby-sitting app that allows parents to earn “Komae points” when they baby-sit, and they use the points to “pay” for baby-sitting.

Segmint, formed in 2008, announced last year that it had struck a deal with IBM to integrate Segmint technology with two IBM financial services products. It has some 40 employees. Komae, meanwhile, is a small startup that last year attracted $500,000 in “pre-seed” — early — funding.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.