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Union Hall – A Dynamic Center of Gravity for Entrepreneurs

This is a Transcript of Tom Williams’ speech given August 24th, 2015 at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Union Hall.

In the 1950’s, Stanford University, partly by design and partly from good fortune, transformed an office park that it owned in Palo Alto into a “place” or a “Hub,” that provided a platform for the fostering of a new innovative, technology culture based on interaction, idea exchange, collaboration, and mutual support. Directly as a result of the creation of this central gathering spot, within a few decades Silicon Valley surpassed every region in the world in terms of innovation, tech transfer, entrepreneurship and early stage capital formation. Now, every city in the country wants to emulate some level of that extraordinary success. But not every city has the resources to pull it off. Fortunately, Cincinnati does!

[pullquote]The expectation is that, over time, Union Hall will catalyze the formation of a larger urban campus…critical to a fully functioning ecosystem.[/pullquote]

One of the key upshots of the recommendations from the work of the Regional Innovation Task Force was the establishment of a Hub – a dynamic center of gravity for the interaction and collaboration of entrepreneurs, innovators, venture capitalists, support players, and mentors. The expectation is that, over time, Union Hall will catalyze the formation of a larger urban campus containing other nearby offices and facilities teaming with players and organizations critical to a fully functioning ecosystem.

The genesis of Cintrifuse came about with the confluence of three main realities:

  • Our airport, our vital port to the world, had been downsized by over 70% overnight.
  • From this, we realized that we could not simply rely on recruiting companies to our city for economic development and job growth. We knew we needed to look inward and direct our energy into ramping up our investment into the vast resources that already exist here in our community.
  • And we also saw, from a broad based study, that the aggregate venture capital spend in our region was woefully behind our peers.

These realities caused us to assess our regional landscape in order to identify, not only our valuable resources, but equally important – the gaps, or the voids, that needed to be filled for our region to become a stand alone, vibrant ecosystem of research and development, tech transfer and successful commercialization.

One of our key conclusions was the development of an organization that could become the “connective tissue” of an emerging ecosystem. An organization that could be the catalyst for the development of capital funds and other essential ingredients that are currently missing locally. An organization that can assure the continuity of a start up’s development through every stage of its evolution. An organization that can help all of the players in the space take their game to a higher level. That’s what Cintrifuse is meant to be.

[pullquote]That we be successful in this effort cannot be understated. But…we have every reason to be extremely confident.[/pullquote]

And over the past nine months, under the passionate and intelligent direction of Wendy Lea, Cintrifuse is settling into its rightful place – a support system for all committed players, and a catalyst for filling all of our gaps in order for Cincinnati to create a “sustainable tech based economy.” So, Cintrifuse may be responsible for the development of this facility, but today is not about Cintrifuse.

Today is about the entire ecosystem. It’s about The Brandery and CincyTech It’s about Queen City Angels, Ocean and Uptech. It’s about everyone and every entity in our region that is contributing to this critical, cornerstone platform, which is indispensable for the growth and development of our city in the 21st century. That we be successful in this effort cannot be understated. But, given the amazing spirit and tenacity of our city, we have every reason to be extremely confident.

Take the Equity Fund and 3CDC, which were established over ten years ago. That success evolved in exactly the same way that we are jointly pursuing this. At that time there were already some pioneers taking risk in the space, namely people living and working in Over-the-Rhine and the fringes of the central business district. Then the business community decided to commit the necessary financial resources required for transformational change.

An organization was then created and an exceptional executive director was brought in. And, most importantly, your generation – the energetic, dynamic, youthful spirit of our city – moved in and took over. Sustainable success was achieved. We can do this again. We can take this next hill – if we do this together. And we will!

[pullquote]Turbocharging this ecosystem is imperative for us to remain a highly relevant, world class city for many decades to come[/pullquote]

The business community will be there with the essential resources, and provide the critical access and engagement, to support your innovative ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. And Cintrifuse will be there to serve as that connective tissue among all of the various constituents and will continue to seek ways to eliminate the gaps so that our region will have every support piece needed in the lifespan of a start up enterprise.

As I said in a presentation to United Way several years ago – the world is moving at warp speed. Turbocharging this ecosystem is imperative for us to remain a highly relevant, world class city for many decades to come.

tom williams cintrifuse startupcincy

Tom Williams

As President of North American Properties, Tom Williams has grown the Company from a local owner/developer to a multi-regional real estate operating company that has acquired, developed and managed more than $4 billion of retail, multifamily, mixed-use and office properties across the United States. With strong ties to Cincinnati, Williams serves in numerous civic leadership roles.   He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the following organizations:  Cincinnati Business Committee (Chair), Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), Cincinnati Equity Fund, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (Chair) and The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority.

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