Ted Ford steps down from TechColumbus Dec. 31, but don't expect him to go far. CEO of the nonprofit since its birth, Ford plans to remain in town to do consulting work both in and out of Columbus. One reason: His first grandchild, a 5-year-old girl, lives here. "Getting my wife out of town would be very difficult, but we don't want to do it anyway," he says.
Ford, former CEO of the Edison Welding Institute, was recruited in 2005 to marry the Columbus Technology Council and the Business Technology Center. Now, TechColumbus fosters Central Ohio tech companies by leading regional initiatives, funneling grants to entrepreneurs, providing incubation space for startups and encouraging the retention and attraction of young companies.
"The TechColumbus model has become a national model. A lot of people look at it and are wondering how they might be able to adapt something similar to their communities, so I'm going to be talking to those folks and kind of helping out where I can," says Ford, talking for the first time since his resignation was announced. "Longer term, I'm going to be here looking for ways that I can help the Columbus community advance in other ways."
Ford counts among his greatest successes his championing of TechStart, which provides early-stage funding and mentoring. In a 70-day period, fundraisers secured $7.5 million to match $15 million in state dollars. Ford says the speedy timeline "was an expression of the community's desire to finally do something other than just talk about how we should use technology to grow the regional economy."
As a search committee finds Ford's replacement, he says his successor will need to foster collaborative relationships with community partners, including with Ohio State University and its new VP for commercialization. "We've got to lower every barrier to commercializing the research that's coming out of Ohio State and to turning that into companies that hopefully will stay here in this region and will hopefully provide that economic boost we're looking for," he says.
Ford predicts TechColumbus will become one of the country's largest networked tech business communities, with 2,000 members by 2015. "That will have huge benefits, in terms of how people connect with other people, talent is accessed, people get hired; it'll be a big driver for retaining students in the region. I see that happening--I don't see how that doesn't happen."
Reprinted from the January 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.