February 22, 2011 by
Northeast Ohio has staked its future on high-growth entrepreneurship. That’s why today, President Obama is bringing five Cabinet secretaries and his top economic advisors to Cleveland for a White House Winning the Future Forum on Small Business. In special sessions on high-growth entrepreneurship, access to capital, workforce development, boosting exports, and cleantech innovation, they’ll hear entrepreneurs from across the region address the real challenges and opportunities facing small and growing businesses every day.
One of these companies is ABSMaterials, based in Wooster, Ohio. It developed and patented super-absorbent material called “Osorb” that soaks up organic contaminants like a sponge. This innovative, reusable technology can help clean up oil spills, polluted waterways, and contaminated drinking water. In just the last two years, ABSMaterials has brought this technology from a novel idea to a revenue-generating product. The company has raised .5 million from private investors, and is creating jobs.
The growth of ABSMaterials did not happen in a vacuum. Northeast Ohio has spent well over a decade growing the kind of entrepreneurial ecosystem that allows innovative startups to thrive. Some of the growth capital for ABSMaterials came from JumpStart, a regional economic development network that’s been so successful, it recently announced that it will be scaling the model across the country—a major private-sector commitment to U.S. entrepreneurship in response to the President’s Startup America call to action.
Today, Lorain County Community College (LCCC) is also making a bold commitment under the banner of Startup America. It is transforming its Innovation Fund from a local success story in Elyria, Ohio, into a national phenomenon: Innovation Fund America.
Here’s how the model works: The Innovation Fund makes small but crucial grants to local high-tech startups like ABSMaterials, allowing them to prove their technology and raise money from private investors. Philanthropic contributions to the fund are tax-deductible, because the startups agree to educate the next generation of entrepreneurs through student internships.
It’s a quadruple-win: Donors can see their dollars go to work toward high-impact, high-growth local economic development; innovative startups get seed capital when they need it most; community college students get hands-on experience at an entrepreneurial high-tech company; and the region gets new jobs. (It bears repeating that the overwhelming majority of net new jobs come from startups.)
So far, LCCC’s Innovation Fund has awarded .3 million to 60 companies, rapidly creating 100 new jobs, attracting million in additional private investment, and sponsoring 130 student entrepreneurship internships. Starting today, LCCC will help other community colleges across the country replicate this model, as part of the Virtual Incubator Network, a project of the American Association of Community Colleges funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
Lorain County Community College is helping America win the future by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building our competitors. Read more about its efforts at the new Innovation Fund America site, and check out the full range of Startup America policy initiatives and private-sector commitments at www.WhiteHouse.gov/startupamerica.
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