q&a: lisa delp, executive director of ohio third frontier
Lisa Delp was named Interim Executive Director of Ohio Third Frontier
last November after the promotion of Norm Chagnon, now Deputy Chief of the Office of Technology Investments with the Ohio Department of Development
. hiVelocity talked with her about her background in business development and her goals for Ohio Third Frontier.
Tell me about your background and what you were doing before you came to the Ohio Department of Development?
I’ve always worked in small businesses, primarily start-ups, where I was often part of the core team of people who wore lots of hats to get operations off the ground. In the mid-1990’s I got the entrepreneurial bug myself and launched two successful consulting firms that focused on business and manufacturing assistance to entrepreneurs.
In 2001, I co-founded a laboratory equipment business, the Delp Mixer Company, with my late husband and that took me in a whole new direction. Developing a product, with associated manufacturing costs, is a vastly different than being a consultant and through that start-up I learned some hard lessons about bootstrapping and investors. In the first four years I raised more than $300,000 in private capital and thought I was pretty fortunate until I realized that the ability to write a check does not make one a good investor.
All of this was before Ohio Third Frontier, so there was virtually no mentor network, few sources of organized, professional capital, and no Entrepreneurial Signature Program
. Entrepreneurs were really on their own in those days, failure rates were high and people were at risk to lose everything because of a lack of knowledge and resources. I nearly did, and I made it my “mission” to try to help other entrepreneurs avoid the mistakes I made.
I started off coaching and mentoring people in my network and over time began to support entrepreneurial development in a broader way through board participation and volunteer activities. I currently sit on the Economics, and Applied Management Advisory Boards at Franklin University
; am an annual judge for the Business Plan Competition at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business
; and a former instructor for Increase Community Development Corporation, an organization assisting minority business owners.
Why did you decide to take the leadership position with Ohio Third Frontier at this point?
For an Ohioan with a passion for entrepreneurship and economic development there is no better professional opportunity! I am able to work with all the very best organizations in the state through the JobsOhio
Network, the Edison Incubator Program
, the Entrepreneurial Signature Program, and the venture capital community. I get to be a part of leading edge initiatives and funding programs, and really have an impact on the future of my home state. On a purely personal note, when out of the state I get to bask in the admiration of my peers who are completely envious of the benefits of Ohio Third Frontier resources.
You've suggested focusing some of Ohio Third Frontier's efforts in business sectors where Ohio is most competitive. How much of a difference do you think this will make in generating new businesses in the state?
Ohio Third Frontier has always been strategic in its thinking, aligning our strengths in manufacturing and innovation to emerging market opportunities. We also take a comprehensive approach to our development activities. By that I mean that we think about the relationships and connectivity of the programs and industries we fund. We build ecosystems that support growth of new companies through the opportunity for partnerships in related industries or sectors. That organic growth approach helps us expand our economy to accommodate large organizations that need to be located in close proximity to vendors and suppliers who are key to their businesses. By attracting those large organizations we help the smaller ones increase sales and hire Ohio workers. This is where the emergence of JobsOhio is really beneficial to the system!
Talk about what Ohio Third Frontier is doing to create growth in Ohio’s six market opportunity areas: materials, aerospace, biomedical, energy, information technology, and instruments, controls and electronics?
Advanced materials is a good example of how we are creating networks and growth. In this space we have several universities and industries working in collaboration on things such as advanced polymers. The University of Akron
is working on this, and there are many business partnerships within the materials industry. We now have a lot to offer these businesses that they realize they can use to enhance their bottom line.
Explain how the FY2012 Growth Fund program will work. This is the fund that seeks to stimulate the formation of two SBIC funds that would be at least $75 million each and could be repeated in 2013.
Risk capital in Ohio Third Frontier has primarily been focused on early-stage activity; our Pre-Seed capitalization supports the first “professional” money into an emerging company. Other programs such as the Ohio Capital Fund
and Innovation Ohio Loan Fund
address funding needs at the later stages, but we’ve recognized a gap in growth-stage funding. An opportunity to maximize state funds by leveraging private investments in this space with federal resources offered a way to bridge the gap.
Growth funds will allow revenue generating companies access to working capital and enable them to hire new employees, fund purchase orders from customers, buy new equipment and expand or grow their business.
The state is taking a new approach to funding these opportunities that will allow us to receive the proceeds of the activity back for recycling and capitalizing future funds.
Ohio Third Frontier has committed to focusing on a portfolio of projects that have shorter time frames, three to five years. How this being implemented and what are the results?
The implementing is in the same fashion as what we’ve done in the past. The change is in the objective. We’ll focus more on those shorter outcomes. In the beginning we had an empty ecosystem. We had to focus on the long term. Now we have a robust investment community and now our expectations are ready to be poised for those shorter term outcomes.
We will still see jobs and increased investment and more collaboration with networks in the industries in which we’re focused. One of our objectives with JobsOhio is that we now have a network where we can attract large organizations here because we have the work force and capabilities that they need. So instead of just tax incentives we can offer them all the assets they need to be successful.
With a new infusion of taxpayer funding, what do you see as the next goal for Ohio Third Frontier?
Our next set of goals is to maximize the investments already made and aim for returns in the 3-5 year timeframe; work toward making our programs more sustainable by developing new funding models that allow the state to receive a return that can be used for reinvestment; and to bridge the funding and talent gaps.
What are some of the biggest challenges Ohio faces in attracting and retaining business?
Our challenge in attracting businesses has been in organizing all the resources and incentives that are available. Even so, we’ve done better than any other state, as demonstrated by the winning of our 5th Governors Cup (an award from Site Selection
magazine that honors the state with the most new and expanded corporate facilities). With the formation of the JobsOhio Network I think we can look forward to seeing the Governor's Cup come back to Ohio for many years to come.
In terms of retaining businesses I believe that we face the same challenges that every state does: providing an attractive climate for success, availability of a skilled workforce and opportunity to grow.
How do you think Ohio Third Frontier can help the state overcome those challenges?
Ohio Third Frontier is helping to overcome those challenges by supporting an ecosystem that reduces the risk of starting or growing a business with the ESPs, fostering the development of new entrepreneurs and workers through the ONE Fund
and internships, and providing access to resources to feed growth with the Pre-Seed Fund Capitalization, Growth Funds, and a full range of Open Innovation initiatives.