Executive Director of Gannon's Incubator Formally Introduced
Gannon University has named Russell V. Combs, Sr., as the director of its forthcoming Erie Technology Incubator (ETI).
Combs, who was chosen through a national search process, assumed his position at Gannon on July 3. One of his first priorities has been meeting with local economic development professionals, entrepreneurs, governmental officials, business leaders, and potential service providers.
He formally was introduced to the media and to the university community during a press conference this morning in Gannon’s Old Main. He took the opportunity to explain the incubator’s many benefits. "The Erie Technology Incubator... is intended to be not only a leader in entrepreneurial development but also a catalyst of and partner for new technology business creation and growth in Erie and the surrounding region," Combs said. "The main objective is to give fledgling businesses and entrepreneurial scientists and technologists the opportunity to experience the highly successful business development methodology called business incubation.
"Statistically, a business that utilizes the business incubation methodology of development has an 84-87 percent chance of success and sustainable growth, as versed to only 24-27 percent if they proceed into business on their own," he added.
Beyond the inherent benefits of being housed in an incubator, Gannon’s ETI will offer tenant companies an added advantage. "One of the predominant partners in this effort will be the Gannon University Small Business Development Center, directed by Debra Steiner," Combs said. "She and her highly qualified and dedicated staff will provide them various components of business assistance – from assisting in the pre-admittance process, to business strategic operational planning, to investment pre-qualification, just to name a few."
Russell Combs - presenting
More about Russell Combs
Combs has an extensive background with business incubators similar to Gannon’s ETI. He most recently served as the executive director of the Business Incubation Group of the Shenandoah (Va.) Region, a position he had held since 2004.
Prior to that, Combs from 2000-04 was the director of Technology Ventures Business Incubator, and from 1996-2000 he served as the executive director of Friendship Economic Zone.
He is a past president of the Virginia Business Incubation Association, which consists of nearly 30 business incubators, more than 70 members, and more than 250 businesses throughout Virginia. Combs also guided the administration and marketing of an Economic Development (now Empire) Zone initiative in Allegany County, N.Y.
He twice was a speaker/trainer for the International Business Incubator Association in Hong Kong and four times at the conference for the National Business Incubation Association. He also has spoken at the Appalachian Regional Commission’s conference on topics such as business and community development in rural America, non-profits’ roles in rural business incubation, and youth entrepreneurship.
In 2005, Combs facilitated a congressional symposium on business incubation and entrepreneurial development. He also was the keynote speaker for a national business retention and expansion broadcast for Cornell University.
More about Gannon University’s Erie Technology Incubator
The ETI is located in the former Boys & Girls Club building at 130 West Eighth Street, located within the Gannon campus. Renovations are currently underway and will be completed in time for the ETI to begin full operation in spring 2008.
In August, 2006, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell announced that Gannon had been selected for a $4 million state capital grant to fund renovations and other initiatives related to the ETI. In total, some $5 million has been raised to support the project, which has been one of the top strategic priorities of Gannon University President Antoine M. Garibaldi, Ph.D.
The incubator will operate as a not-for-profit business incubator dedicated to stimulating the development of advanced technologies and promoting the formation, growth, and retention of early stage technology-based companies that will generate new-economy job opportunities in northwest Pennsylvania.
Specifically, it will focus on three technology sectors that parallel the strengths of Gannon’s academic programs and relate to the growth sectors established by the Erie Keystone Innovation Zone: information technology (software development, networking, Telecommunications, and IT consulting), engineering technology (embedded systems design, integrated circuit design, and green building technologies), and scientific technology (nanotechnology, medical devices, and alternative energies).
A number of services will be provided by the ETI and its community partners, such as the Gannon University Small Business Development Center, the Economic Development Corp. of Erie County, the Erie KIZ, and the Center for eBusiness and Advanced IT. The services include:
- basic business assistance.
- on-demand business development coaching.
- entrepreneurial mentoring.
- access to a professional services network.
- assistance to obtain financing.
- strategic partnerships with successful corporations.
- networking opportunities.
- discounted educational programs.
The ETI can accommodate up to about 25 companies, depending on their size. On average, it will house 10-12 tenant companies that each will stay between two to four years, depending on their growth rate.