Ohio’s Third Frontier commission on Wednesday awarded $2.9 million in funding for to help Dayton region entrepreneurs, restoring that funding to the region for the first time since 2015.
Combined with already-pledged local matches, the award means a total of $6.1 million in new money and in-kind services will be available to help startups in an eight-county area, said Scott Koorndyk, president of The Entrepreneurs Center (TEC) of Dayton, which applied for the money.
“I think it’s validation of the strategy that we and our partners have been executing against for the last 18 months,” Koorndyk said. “This is an indication that the state now believes we are on the right track.”
The state money will be used to support entrepreneurs in an eight-county region that includes Montgomery, Greene, Miami, Preble, Clark, Champaign, Shelby and Darke counties. It will fund 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.
“Small business is the backbone of our community. Funding from the Third Frontier Commission will make it possible for entrepreneurs in emerging and high technology sectors to continue to innovate in the Greater Dayton Region,” said Montgomery County Commission President Dan Foley. “We look forward to working with The Entrepreneurs Center to leverage local resources and help these companies to grow our local economy.”
State Rep Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, also applauded the vote.
“This was our third shot at this, and I was very pleased to hear that the commission voted favorably,” said Perales, who is the House Speaker’s appointee to the Third Frontier Advisory Board. “This investment by the Third Frontier will pay major dividends in the Dayton region and in Northwest Ohio, and I look forward to watching TEC and its partners continue to create jobs, support innovative startups, and commercialize new technologies in our area.”
TEC took over applying for the grant from the Dayton Development Coalition, which lost the funding in 2015 after being unable to resolve concerns over how effectively the money was being spent.
Jeff Hoagland, coalition president and chief executive, said he is thrilled that the funding was awarded to TEC and said the coalition will continue to be a partner in assisting small business startups.
Big funding boost
The new money is a big boost to TECs current annual $1.5 million budget, which includes no state funding, Koorndyk said.
“We’ve not had the kind of resources that can support companies across the community and we have not had the kind of resources that (the Third Frontier funding will) bring,” Koorndyk said.
TEC is a technology accelerator and business incubator located at 714 E. Monument St. in Dayton. The center has five employees plus two shared with the Small Business Development Center. Koorndyk anticipates the new funding will allow him to add four or five new employees.
TEC is currently at full capacity, with 20 incubating early stage companies, venture capital organizations and others in the building.
A new ‘ecosystem’
TEC applied for $3.6 million in state funds but was awarded the lower amount after the commisson made changes in the TEC proposal recommended by an independent evaluator, Koorndyk said. Overall the independent evaluator’s remarks were positive and funding was recommended.
“TEC and it’s partners have built a new ecosystem that will revitalize the entrepreneurial community in the Dayton Region,” said Bruce Langos, a former Teradata executive and Third Frontier commissioner. “The team at TEC did exactly as the commission expected and they will be a valued asset to the entire west central region.”
TEC has lined up $3.2 million in local matches, a combination of cash and in-kind services already pledged by local partners. Those partners include Wright State University, the University of Dayton, Ohio University, the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, Nucleus CoShare of Dayton and others, Koorndyk said.
The money will be available through 2018, a shorter time-frame than proposed in TEC’s unsuccessful 2016 application for $6 million in Third Frontier money.
In 2016 an independent evaluator recommended that the state not fund that TEC proposal, which also was to be matched by $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.”
Representatives of the Dayton and Toledo regions were allowed to re-submit the proposals. On Wednesday the commission also awarded $4.37 million to ProMedica Innovations, serving the Toledo region.
Koorndyk said the new program will be different from the old one.
“The primary difference is that we are very focused on identifying and building technology from our research institutions locally, most notably the Wright-Patt Air Force Research Lab, the University of Dayton Research Institute and Wright State Research Institute,” he said.
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