Michael LeHere, who shepherded the growing downtown business incubator in Akron from its beginnings in 1983 until he retired last December, was honored this week with a top award from the National Business Incubation Association.
“It was a surprise,” said LeHere, who received the 2013 Member Emeritus Award at the association’s conference in Boston.
“I was listening to the description of an award [at a conference function] and after a moment I turned to my wife, Susan, and asked, ‘Are they talking about me?’ ’’
LeHere, a resident of Sharon Township, is grateful for his tenure, calling it “a fantastic ride.”
He stepped down as chief executive officer of the incubator — these days called the Akron Global Business Accelerator — on Dec. 31 after 29 years.
The organization, designed to nurture fledgling companies and create and attract jobs, was born in the recession of the early 1980s. After three years, in 1986, it had 14 tenants in its then 40,000-square-foot facility.
Today, the accelerator is a national role model using more than 300,000 square feet at the former B.F. Goodrich complex on South Main Street. It houses 50 companies that have created roughly 140 jobs. Dozens of companies, with hundreds of employees, have “graduated” from the incubator.
Terry Martell, the accelerator’s director of operations and business development, noted that the incubator was the first in Ohio and among the first 10 in the country.
LeHere is not a city employee but an independent consultant paid by the city’s nonprofit Akron Development Corp. to manage the incubator.
He said highlights of his career include seeing the incubator attract sophisticated technology companies, as well as its involvement in programs that have attracted foreign investment.
“I’m also proud of the quality of the staff that is now in place to run these programs,” LeHere said.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.