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White House Endorses Launch of Innovation Fund America

Providing funding and talent for high-tech entrepreneurs when they need it most.

Cleveland, Ohio and Washington, DC (February 22, 2011): Today, as part of President Barack Obama’s “Winning the Future Forum on Small Business” in Cleveland, Ohio, the White House endorsed the launch of: Innovation Fund America, modeled after the successful Innovation Fund founded by Lorain County Community College (Elyria, Ohio) and its Foundation.  Innovation Fund America, showcased today at the White House Startup America website, will help high-technology entrepreneurs gain access to funding and talent when they need it most: the so-called valley of death – after exhausting personal resources, but before investors will take interest.

“America was built on the persistence and ingenuity of entrepreneurs. To remain globally competitive, we must rekindle this spirit through innovative public-private partnerships,” said Dr. Roy A. Church, President of Lorain County Community College. “We are excited to launch Innovation Fund America as our part in the American Association of Community College’s Virtual Incubator Network supporting the Startup America Initiative. Innovation Fund America will offer community colleges across the country access to this resource to grow high-tech entrepreneurs in their own communities, while inspiring students to become the next generation of innovators.”

Lorain County Community College and its Foundation, as part of the American Association of Community College’s (AACC) Virtual Incubator Network funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, will expand its highly successful Innovation Fund for replication throughout community colleges nationwide in support of the President’s Startup America Initiative.

“Lorain County Community College is an excellent example of what we are trying to achieve with AACC’s Virtual Incubator Network,” said Jack A. Litzenberg, senior program officer at the Mott Foundation. “The college has served as an economic catalyst for the county and continues to be a groundbreaker for creating economic opportunity in the entire area.”

Earlier this month, Lorain County Community College was announced as one of 10 community colleges selected to participate in the network, a pilot program to encourage the creation of more startup businesses to help sustain continued economic recovery through the community college system. 

"Encouraging small business development and job growth is a critical need in the nation's economic recovery, and community colleges have an important role to play,” said Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, president of the American Association of Community Colleges. “The Lorain County Community College model is an excellent example of the kind of innovation we need, and our association looks forward to helping other colleges adapt the model in their own communities."

Lorain County Community College through its Foundation founded the Innovation Fund in 2007 and now administers the initiative in partnership with nine other institutions of higher education and economic development, including: Cleveland State University, Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE), Jumpstart, Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy (NEOUCOM), Stark State College, The University of Akron, The University of Akron Research Foundation, Youngstown State University and the Youngstown Business Incubator.  To date, the Innovation Fund in northeast Ohio has provided $4.3 million to 60 companies meeting this profile in just three years, many of which participated in today’s Presidential forum. Since then, these companies have attracted more than $41 million in follow-on investments and sales and helped create 100 new jobs.

The Innovation Fund is a private-public partnership supported by philanthropic, corporate and government resources, including the Ohio Third Frontier. The Lorain County Community College Foundation received an exclusive landmark private letter ruling from the IRS authorizing tax-deductible contributions to the fund due to the fact recipients are required to provide students with an internship in entrepreneurship. To date, over 130 internships have been created for students with startup companies. This pay-it-forward concept helps not only support today’s start-up companies, but encourages students to consider entrepreneurship as a viable career choice while providing entrepreneurs with talent necessary to grow their business.

Innovation Fund America will equip other community colleges with the tools and support to implement this program and help stimulate high tech entrepreneurship in the communities they serve. Creating Innovation Fund America will be the focus of LCCC’s involvement in the AACC Virtual Incubator Network.