It’s a great time to be working in Northeast Ohio.
There is a palpable feeling among those in the know that our entrepreneurial ecosystem is on the right track. Our homegrown ventures are routinely making national news for their exciting deals and venture capitalists are now making comparisons between Ohio in 2014 and Silicon Valley in 1975.
Just last month, the Ohio Third Frontier added more good news, committing $19 million to a collaborative network of 16 entrepreneurial support organizations in Northeast Ohio, including JumpStart. These funds will allow us to continue assisting entrepreneurs across our vast 21-county region, which houses nearly 40 percent of Ohio’s population and more than 35 percent of the state’s GDP.
It’s worth taking a moment to recognize how far our region has come in the last decade, and how we’ve gotten where we are.
Twelve short years ago, Northeast Ohio was a very different place. Our entrepreneurial ecosystem had just been ranked dead-last among 61 other large U.S. regions. Deal flow was at a trickle. Everyone was frustrated and fed up with the way things were going. Our region’s private and philanthropic leaders, including the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP), saw the writing on the wall. So did our state government, who also realized it was time to try something new to stimulate the entrepreneurial future of Ohio.
JumpStart grew out of this foresight. We were formed as a private-public nonprofit partnership to bring the concept of “venture development” (a mixture of work similar to venture capitalists in many ways, but focused on the goals of economic development versus maximizing short-term profits) to Northeast Ohio. Together with our network partners, we have worked hard to prepare our fragile ecosystem for prime time by providing a unique mix of capital investment and intensive technical assistance for entrepreneurs.
Our region’s new venture development model was a calculated risk, intended to spark a chain reaction of investment and growth in our region. The architects of the plan expected that it would take a decade or more for this spark to grow into a fire.
Today and tomorrow
Roughly 10 years later, the patience of GCP, regional foundations and the Ohio Third Frontier has paid off. Our Northeast Ohio network has helped more than 900 early-stage entrepreneurs obtain the space, investment, advice, support and connections they need to raise $1.3 billion in additional risk capital and create nearly 2,700 jobs.
Together, this network has also brought our region a great deal of positive recognition in the last decade. Here are just a few highlights.
- The Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI) has been ranked the number one university-affiliated incubator in the world.
- The Akron Global Business Accelerator (AGBA) has won the National Business Incubation Association’s prestigious Incubator Innovation Award and been named the top business incubator in Ohio by the Cincinnati Business Courier.
- The Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE) has been recognized as a “national model” by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the American Association of Community Colleges.
- Braintree Business Development Center CEO Bob Cohen was awarded the Reginald J. Cressman Award for outstanding staff development by the Association of Cooperative Educators (ACE).
- JumpStart has received a Gold Excellence in Economic Development Award for entrepreneurship from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).
We are all proud of what we have accomplished as a team, but we are also looking ahead—launching new efforts to help entrepreneurs access a more inclusive talent pool of mentors, advisors, board members and employees while focusing on providing even more intensive assistance to local ventures with the highest potential for growth.
Our collective successes are worth celebrating, but there is so much more work to be done. Although our region has made real progress, our job-growth still lags behind the national average by a huge margin. We must continue to think boldly and creatively to overcome the decades of economic setbacks that have defined our past.
A new regional strategy
In November, Northeast Ohio’s 15-member Regional Competitiveness Council (RCC), took a major step forward with the announcement of a new Regional Economic Competitiveness Strategy (RECS).
This strategy — developed by our region’s corporate, chamber of commerce and foundation leadership — is designed to attract new businesses, help existing businesses expand and build a workforce that can compete for 21st century jobs. It all begins with the merger of NorTech and Team Northeast Ohio, who will consolidate their services to focus on accelerating job creation in our region by 50 percent.
No single organization can accomplish this lofty goal alone. It will take a truly collaborative effort to meet the coming challenges we face. For our part, JumpStart will continue to work with the high-growth startups that have been our traditional focus while also finding new ways to provide capital investment and technical assistance to our region’s growing segment of scaleup ventures. These more established companies have progressed through their earliest stage of development but still need help to grow aggressively in Northeast Ohio.
It is crucial that we do everything we can to help these startups and scaleups grow and find success in our region, since they are the types of ventures that have created nearly all net new jobs in the U.S. over the last 30 years.
We all have our own unique responsibilities and face our own challenges as we work to take Northeast Ohio to the next level. But, as a group, we can sense that something exciting is happening.
It’s a great time to be working in Northeast Ohio.
JumpStart is part of the regional economic development system that the Greater Cleveland Partnership helped to create and continues to support.