Antani says state should not have pulled funding

Region tries again for state money for startups

Funding was cancelled in 2015 out of concerns over how money was spent.

Dayton region officials are once again trying to convince the state to restore funding for entrepreneurs that was lost in 2015 after the Dayton Development Coalition was unable to resolve concerns over how effectively the money was being spent.

“Unfortunately we lost this funding two years ago. I’m hopeful we can get this funding back so that we can get our startup community these necessary dollars,” State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, said Tuesday.

RELATED: Fewer funds for high-tech startups in Dayton area

Antani said the region needs the money to compete with Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, all of which get the state funding for entrepreneurs.

The Ohio Third Frontier Commission on Wednesday will consider a proposal for funding submitted by The Entrepreneurs Center (TEC), a technology accelerator and business incubator in Dayton. The coalition did not apply for the money but is supportive of TEC’s application and confident it will be approved, said Jeff Hoagland, president and chief executive of the coalition.

What would entrepreneurs get from state funding?

“Our Accelerant team will continue to work with TEC and the regional start-up community to support local business growth and job creation,” Hoagland said.

If approved the money would be used to support entrepreneurs in an eight-county region that includes Montgomery, Greene, Miami, Preble, Clark, Champaign, Shelby and Darke counties.

It will provide mentors, help entrepreneurs build business plans and find employees, connect them with customers, assist them with intellectual property issues, offer educational programming and other help.

RELATED: Funding denied for Dayton’s Entrepreneurs Center

TEC President Scott Koorndyk said he’s applied for $3.6 million in state funds — an amount that would have to be matched with an equal amount of cash and in-kind services already pledged by local partners. The money would be available through 2018, a shorter time-frame than proposed in his unsuccessful 2016 application for $6 million.

In 2016 an independent evaluator recommended that the state not fund The Entrepreneurs Center’s proposal, which also was to be matched by another $6 million locally and would have lasted through 2019. The evaluator said the proposal “lacks emphasis on resources and relationships to be able to support high-potential firms” and had a “notable lack of health-related stakeholders.”

RELATED: Startup says Accelerant funds vital to success

After the Third Frontier Commission took no action on the proposal at its December meeting, representatives of the Dayton and Toledo regions were allowed to re-submit the proposals that are being considered Wednesday, said Lisa Colbert, spokeswoman for the Ohio Development Services Agency.

The state agency administers the voter-approved Third Frontier bond funding. The program targeting business start-ups has been rebranded as the Entrepreneurial Services Provider Program. It was formerly known as the Entrepreneurial Signature Program (ESP).

Koorndyk said the state revised its request in a way that he believes will make funding more likely because previous proposals were measured against standards for an existing program, even though the TEC had not previously run the local effort.

“(They will) treat us as a new ESP that is bringing new partners and new programs to the table,” Koorndyk said.

He said it’s possible that only a portion of the money will be approved.

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The Third Frontier funding had been provided to the Dayton region since 2007 through the coalition, a public-private partnership that is the western regional arm of the state’s privatized economic development engine, JobsOhio. The coalition operates Accelerant, which provides tech startups with funds and assistance.

Antani says state should not have pulled funding

In 2015 the Third Frontier Commission rejected the coalition’s request for $1.8 million in funding for entrepreneurs. At the time the money was rejected, the coalition had let more than $2 million in previously approved money go unspent. The rejection made the eight-county region the only one in the state not receiving new state funds to assist technology startups.

“We are the home of innovation, the birthplace of aviation,” Antani said. “I don’t think we should have lost that money in the first place.”

RELATED: State cuts funds from Dayton Development Coalition

In the 2015 funding round, the evaluators identified multiple weaknesses with the coalition’s entrepreneurship program, including failure to raise enough funding from the private sector, limited client services and a lack of formal commitments from “deal flow” sources such as universities and research labs.

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