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Akron Global Business Accelerator named number 1 in the state

SHERRY KARABIN
Legal News Reporter

Published: November 27, 2012

It is the first and largest incubator program in Ohio and now the Akron Global Business Accelerator has the distinction of being named the top one in the state by the Business Courier, a weekly publication serving the Greater Cincinnati area.

The business publication ranked 11 Ohio incubators in eight categories, including client revenue, outside capital raised, number of tenants, aggregate payroll, the total number of jobs, jobs created, average salaries and average state funding per job.

“I was actually stunned because the ranking came from an independent Cincinnati publication,” said Terrence Martell, director of operations and business development for the Akron Global Business Accelerator. “Akron is just a medium-sized community but our companies did really well in a struggling economy which is a tribute to them as well as us.”

“I am very pleased with this recognition,” said Chief Executive Officer Michael LeHere. “Three years ago, the National Business Incubation Association named us the most innovative incubator in the country, and I am happy to see that the program has been recognized again. Our staff really works hard to help make it a very special program.”

The final tally by the Business Courier showed that the Akron Global Business Accelerator had 48 tenants, 382 jobs, about $46 million in revenue and approximately $35 million in capital investments for fiscal year 2012, which runs from July 1, 2011 to June 30 ,2012.

“This affirms the approach we embarked on many years ago,” said Mayor Don Plusquellic. “By staffing the accelerator with professionals that have deep entrepreneurial experience and expertise to help its tenant businesses succeed, we can provide a wide variety of technical, administrative, marketing and professional services that a small business may not be able to secure or afford.”

“Sixty percent of the companies in our program are in the pre-revenue stage, and 40 percent or about 20 companies are revenue producing,” said Martell.

“I think the reason that we have been so successful is that every faction of the community has been behind this program, providing resources and assistance,” said LeHere.

The incubator program was created in 1983, attracting its first startup client that year. At the time, it was located in an old former steel warehouse at the edge of The University of Akron campus, which made sense since the university, the city and Summit County were the original partners in the venture, which was designed to offset the loss of jobs in the tire industry by creating new businesses.

Within 18 months after it opened, it was completely occupied with manufacturing, assembly and distribution companies. The accelerator has moved twice since its creation and is now located inside a building in the original B.F. Goodrich tire complex at 526 S. Main St.

“When we first moved into the building, we occupied the first five floors and focused on manufacturing and other industrial clients, but several years ago we made a strategic change by creating a technology incubator on the upper floors,” said Martell.

The expansion was funded by the Economic Development Administration, an arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the city of Akron, allowing floors six through nine to be renovated to accommodate new high-technology startup companies.

“When we occupied the first five floors we had about 112 employees and that number has increased to almost 400.

“If you think about all the ups and downs in the economy over the years, it is impressive that we have been able to grow, but I don’t think the growth would have been possible if we had not had the support of the mayor all these years,” said Martell. “He has been in office for over 25 years and one of his legacies is this accelerator.”

Companies that set up operations in the Akron Global Business Accelerator are able to lease space at 60 to 70 percent below average rates and receive mentoring and coaching services designed to help them bring their ideas/products to market.

“Inherently starting a business is risky with nine out of 10 companies not making it past the first five or six years,” said Martell. “Nationally, however, for companies that go through an incubation program, four out of 10 survive, and our program has above a 90 percent success rate.”

Martell said the average company stays in the accelerator for three to five years. “We lost a lot of manufacturing jobs in the ‘80s, but some of the losses are being made up in the form of smaller companies and I think the accelerator has had a lot to do with that.”

The technology incubator includes a variety of industries ranging from polymer to biomedical companies.

“We are working closely with the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron, Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) and the city’s biomedical corridor to continue and maintain our success,” said LeHere.

“We are also hoping to focus more on IT companies by putting together an accelerator that is specifically focused on their needs.”


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