Throughout southeastern Ohio, West Virginia, and across Kentucky, a series of business incubators, accelerators, makerspaces, and support organizations provide a network for entrepreneurs to start, grow, and expand their businesses. But, does the investment move the needle in the local economy? The data show that they do.
Graphic provided by Ohio University’s Innovation Center
Throughout the last 15 years, the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs provided economic impact data based on direct metrics from companies served by Ohio University’s Innovation Center (OUIC), the region’s premier business incubator, supported 297 jobs generating $12.9 million in salaries in Athens County alone. The 297 jobs represent a 112 percent increase in the last five years.
In a recent press release, OUIC Director Stacy Strauss attributes the increase in numbers to the rapid growth experienced by several companies currently housed in the Innovation Center, as well as rising sales and new hiring by recent incubator graduates.
“We work with tenacious entrepreneurs who are driven to succeed. They are building companies and creating jobs with wages that are significantly higher than the average rate for our area,” Strauss said. “We are just one piece of a larger network of university and regional collaborators that provide critical early-stage services to startups. These figures are more proof that successful scalable ventures are being built in southeastern Ohio.”
The LIGHTS’ network’s direct economic impact has been significant since its inception in October 2016. The system of business incubators, makerspaces, and accelerator programs assisted 199 companies creating 72 jobs and attracting over $23 million in private investment. Please see Andrea Thogmartin’s blog (https://www.lightsregionalinnovation.com/single-post/2019/05/16/Quarterly-Metrics-Review) outlining more impact.
Beyond the direct impact numbers, these programs create an entrepreneurial culture that will outlive grant source investments. Through 470 events and over 5000 attendees, progress can be slow, but steady as communities learn of the resources available and launch new ideas.
The LIGHTS Regional Innovation Network catalyzes the creation of companies to create high-wage jobs and attract greater private investment in the coal-impacted and opioid-impacted regions of Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky, uniquely matching the complex problems and opportunities facing our corporations, communities, and individuals to a network of strategically-placed Innovation Gateways. From this, new marketable products grow from these challenges through our work with locally partnered Innovation Gateways’ business incubators and makerspaces, across a tri-state 28-county area.