STEUBENVILLE - When the Third Frontier initiative was passed by Ohio voters by a 63 percent victory margin, it was a validation of sorts to those working to grow the state's entrepreneurial community.
John Glazer is director for TechGrowth Ohio, a 19-county initiative housed at Ohio University, which connects entrepreneurs with assistance. It is funded through the Third Frontier. Among its many partners is the MCBI regional incubator from Zanesville, which has designated Progress Alliance as its hub in the incubator effort.
Glazer said the renewal of the Third Frontier funding "says Ohio is entrepreneur's territory. Come here."
"Think about it. That passed at a time when people are unemployed and suffering with hard times, at a time when there is a big-government backlash. It's a cool message that got sent," Glazer said.
To continue earning that support takes both big announcements of big developments and the small, everyday work that is done through agencies like Progress Alliance, MCBI and TechGrowth Ohio, he continued.
"Overall, the whole region needs to participate more in the Third Frontier, but TechGrowth is taking large opportunities from the Third Frontier and turning them into many more smaller opportunities," he said.
Jessica Sherman, outreach coordinator for MCBI, said the whole partnership between MCBI and Progress Alliance, including allowing Progress Alliance to work as the single point of contact for anyone interested in starting or growing a business in Jefferson County, are all part of TechGrowth Ohio.
Glazer was in Jefferson County Friday to visit a potential grant applicant at a business whose expansion could benefit from Third Frontier technology grants.
He said while big grants are visible and important, the work of TechGrowth Ohio across 19 counties is about working with the front-line organizations that help entrepreneurs grow their businesses from idea to success. TechGrowth Ohio can provide funds to help businesses access to the resources they need to move from small ideas to operating firm, such as legal and marketing help, as well as help firms access capital and regional investors.
When grants do come for small companies through TechGrowth, Glazer explained the money goes directly to the service provider, not to the entrepreneur.
A prime example of how the system is supposed to work is the softball company that won The Big Idea contest of MCBI several weeks ago. A Cambridge-area entrepreneur had begun making small batches of softballs that are temperature resistant, staying lively even in hot, humid conditions.
MCBI helped the entrepreneur develop his business plan and presentations.
TechGrowth now is taking him through the angel capital community, seeking investors in the region. Investors will offer their advice and expertise, Glazer said, all toward the goal of having the softball company meet its founder's expectations of being an Ohio company that supplies the world.
Glazer said before the Third Frontier and the work of entrepreneur development programs like TechGrowth Ohio, there wasn't a regional investment community.
"There are people now looking for something to do with their money, here, instead of on Wall Street, and they have opportunities to invest in their own back yard, putting their expertise and knowledge and their communities to work. It's rewarding," he said.
Looman, Sherman and Glazer emphasized that the work of partnerships is important for new small businesses to gain resources and grow.
"The partnership is here, and the resources are available in Jefferson County through the partnership with MCBI and their designation of Progress Alliance as the hub," Looman said. "There are doors that we can open, for companies ready to make new products or for startup businesses. We have services that we can access for them."
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