Council approves funding for business incubator

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published:

Hudson -- A special meeting March 12 allowed Council members to give legislation three readings and approve funding for the city-supported business incubator.

Council members March 20 voted 4 to 2 to fund the Technology Entrepreneurial Center of Hudson with a $50,000 grant to be awarded before March 31 and a matching one-to-one grant up to $25,000 in 2013 as funds are raised.

The contract included a $25,000 grant paid before Jan. 31, 2014 with a matching one-to-one grant up to $25,00 in 2014. Both amounts are less than originally proposed in 2012.

Council failed to obtain enough votes supporting the funding March 6 but with three readings, Council only needed a simple majority to pass the resolution.

Council members Alex Kelemen and Dan Williams voted against the proposal both times.

Kelemen said he couldn't support the incubator because it wouldn't bring money back to the community, especially since incubator-supported companies are not required to remain in Hudson.

Williams said he looked at the money already spent and the additional this year and next and figured it would take $20 million to get payback from the investment.

"How many jobs generate $20 million?" Williams asked. "I don't think it will happen. It's not a good investment."

Other Council members supported the investment for 2013 but with reservation.

Council member Dennis Hanink said he would not have supported TECHudson if he had been on Council when the business incubator was proposed.

"The train is on the track," Hanink said. "It's not fair for the current management to have the stool kicked out from under them."

Hanink said he was against support beyond 2013 and said TECHudson should rely on private funding.

"It's not proper use of public funds," Hanink said. "Get them off and running."

Council member Keith Smith agreed with Hanink.

"I have a philosophical problem of throwing money at something that has no potential of return," Smith said. "I look at it as goodwill."

Smith said it was the last time he supported funding for TECHudson. He would support space or services but not an open checkbook.

Although against the funding originally, Council member Hal DeSaussure said Council made a commitment to them and should give TECHudson more time to develop, even though the philosophy on Council has changed through the years.

"Public support of a private business incubator is based on a long-term view, and public entities like Council don't hold long-term views," DeSaussure said. "We don't have the financial patience."

George Buzzy, acting executive director of TECHudson, said he was pleased Council supported the funding even though it wasn't unanimous.

TECHudson wants to add jobs, bring companies to the area and support the next generation of entrepreneurs, but needs community support, Buzzy said.

"We need many years of support, and we need a broader base of support for this mission to be a success," he said.

Entrepreneur supporter Jumpstart and the Youngstown business incubator took 10 to 12 years to develop, but the impact on the Cleveland and Youngstown areas has been significant, Buzzy said.

"We can do the same with the Western Reserve and Summit County area, but we need a long-term vision," Buzzy said.

Hudson agreed to support TECHudson this year, but it's not enough, Buzzy said. TECHudson needs $200,000 per year of external support.

He said TECHudson would soon announce a fundraising campaign for outside support.

"There is a vacuum here," Buzzy said. "There is no organization like TECHudson in the entire area."

The city of Hudson has been the main financial supporter for the TECHudson business incubator, providing $374,000 in the last two years --- $174,000 in 2011 and $200,000 in 2012.

TECHudson will also receive $100,000 from the Ohio Third Frontier, and the Burton D. Morgan Foundation will provide $10,000 if TECHudson raises $20,000 in 2013.

TECHudson is a Hudson-based entrepreneurial center for new technology-based businesses at 105 Executive Parkway, Suite 400, and a member of the Youngstown Business Incubator Tech Collaborative. TECHudson provides support, business expertise and a work space to attract new companies to grow and stay in Hudson and Northeast Ohio.

More information is available at www.techudson.org.

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

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