Warren Incubator Moves Toward TBEIC 2.0

WARREN, Ohio – The chairman of the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center’s board of directors says he would like to have a chief operating officer/general manager for the incubator in place by the first of the year.

Funding that TBEIC has received from the Western Reserve Port Authority, FirstEnergy Corp. and other partners “gives us the ability to plan our cash flow so that we can be searching for full-time, committed management going forward,” said Dave Nestic, executive-in-residence at the incubator.

“My goal is to have someone in place by the first of the year,” said John Pogue, chairman of TBEIC’s board of directors. The position would be “tantamount to what Barb Ewing is” at the Youngstown Business Incubator, he added. Ewing, who also serves on TBEIC’s board, is YBI’s chief operating officer.

“People are what drives program and it’s important that TBEIC have people in place who can pursue the mission, grow the organization and increase its impact in the local region,” Nestic added.

The position would pay about $110,000 to $120,000, including benefits.

The staff addition is among the items TBEIC’s board discussed at its meeting Thursday.

Before the session began, the Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Authority, WRPA’s economic development arm, presented a check for $25,000 to TBEIC. Last week, the port authority approved contributing $25,000 annually for four years to the incubator.

“We believe in what TBEIC does. We’ve been involved in it since its inception,” said Anthony Trevena, the finance authority’s director of economic development. TBEIC, like the finance authority, developed from a vision of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio. “And the strategic alliance and partnership fits perfectly together,” he said.

Trevena joined TBEIC’s board yesterday. He replaces Sarah Lown, the finance authority’s public finance manager.

The port authority money will help gel TBEIC’s relationships in northeastern Ohio and leverage the Third Frontier entrepreneurial program operating through JumpStart, Nestic said.

“We’ve been a collaborator with JumpStart for the past three years and it’s through that relationship that we get deal flow and meet with potential entrepreneurs who can use the space and testing facilities here,” he said. “That funding requires matching funds and the funding from the port authority represents the local commitment we need.”

TBEIC is moving forward on equipping a testing lab for the incubator using about $500,000 in grants it has secured. The lab will give TBEIC the technical capacity it needs to attract parties that need to test grid-related energy technologies, Nestic said.

“It will be a draw to TBEIC,” he continued, not just for startups who will become tenants but also for “companies anywhere that need access to the type of equipment that we’ll have to test new technology for the energy industry.”

Before first, TBEIC needs to identify specialties in the region to determine what role it can play and avoid overlap, Pogue said. That is part of a refinement he and other board members referred to as TBEIC 2.0.

“We need to clarify our mission in order to know what equipment we should be purchasing,” Pogue said. Since TBEIC was created, the energy landscape has changed, with natural gas rising and falling again, and solar and wind technologies becoming more competitive, he explained.

Once the lab is established, TBEIC also will need to hire a chief technology officer, a position Pogue says he would like to see filled by January.

Pictured: Dave Nestic, TBEIC executive in residence, and John Pogue, board chairman, accept a $25,000 check from Anthony Trevina, director of economic development for the Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Authority.

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