The Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation (MVEDC) has been a partner with Valley Growth Ventures since the firm’s founding. MVEDC helped lead the grant submissions that formed the fund and with the initial set-up of VGV. Currently all back office operations, from accounting to financial transaction management, are performed through the partnership with MVEDC.
We had the opportunity to speak with MVEDC’s lending team leader and go-to woman, Teresa Miller, who also works with VGV as financial manager, about what’s going on at MVEDC currently.
Can you give a quick background about yourself?
"I have been with MVEDC for 12 years. I started at the bottom with servicing, but I now also have the role of Lending Team Leader. What that means is there’s a lending team of 3 or 4 of us and we help develop a new practice into the lending team processes called Lean Six Sigma. It’s an adaptive process so you can do things in a more efficient way.
I went to YSU and got my undergrad in communications, and just recently I went back to get my Masters in 2016. While I was doing that, I discovered Lean Six Sigma and loved it, so I implemented it at our office. After that I became lending team leader. Another role I have is trust department manager. I handle all of the loan payments and all reports we have due to different economic agencies like Economic Development Administration and SBA. I wear a lot of hats!"
Tell me about Lean Six Sigma?
"It allows you to monitor the processes you’re doing and find deficiencies that are in there–such as a borrower being upset at the amount of time it took to receive a loan–and we adjust our processes to make it more efficient. Our greatest success with this so far is that we used to have two loan officers that trickled loans down to me. Now we have a relationship manager and a financial manager instead, who then refer the loans to me. We each have our own roles. It’s kind of like an assembly line. so that we go through the same process for each loan. It makes the process much more efficient."
How has your role there so far shaped yourself and MVEDC as a whole?
"Me, personally, I’ve always liked Youngstown and didn’t really care about leaving here, although I did leave for two years and came back, but this job has really shaped my love for the Valley. I’ve always loved to help others, and this has allowed me to be able to do that. When I teach Junior Achievement I always tell them, “My job is to make people’s business dreams come true.” It’s shaped me in that way where I want to see the Valley grow and thrive. I’ve built so many relationships here. I just did the Leadership Mahoning Valley class and there were a group of about 30 of us that became very connected, and we all still talk. It’s been great building those relationships, both professionally and personally."
I think we really need more of that kind of love for the Valley. Can you tell me a bit more about your new program called the Edge fund?
"We are in the works of creating a new revolving loan fund. To give an example of that we have an existing revolving loan fund, for which we borrowed $3 million from the EDA in 1979, and we matched it with $180,000. Today it’s a dollar for dollar. To date, we’ve lent out $38 million. It works because of its structure – we lend it, then the lenders pay it back, then we lend it again. And for us to survive, we just take a small administrator’s fee out of it every month as part of the interest that comes back. So it revolves. We’re 29 years into this fund. So now, we’re trying to start a new one. We want to be available to people who cannot get traditional bank financing, and we see a huge need for that; women entrepreneurs, minority entrepreneurs – because for people who have a credit score below 650, a bank won’t even speak to them but they still have great ideas. We have a loan program right now where you had to have been declined by a bank. It took off in 2011, and we couldn’t get the money paid back fast enough because there was such a great demand, so we’re doing a new one, called the Edge Fund.
The Edge Fund would be for people who cannot get traditional loan financing. It also would be revolving so we can see it grow for generations to come. I have 4 young kids, so this loan fund will be around for them if they want to start businesses. It stands for taking the Economically Disadvantaged and Growing them into Entrepreneurs. We are trying to find high net worth individuals to put money into the Mahoning Valley, and looking for anyone with an interest in seeing the Valley grow and thrive and are interested in our economic development."
Do the people who can receive this fund have some kind of business plan already or can they be kickstarters? As in, who can receive this loan?
"Anyone, whether just starting out or not. But when you come to us, we want you to have a great business plan in place; understand who are your competitors, have some projections in place, and have the idea put together. We’ve had people in our existing program who have been in business for under 2 years, which again, banks won’t even look at. So it can be people who want to buy more equipment or maybe have been working out of their house and want to buy a building. So it’s for expanding businesses as well."
What are some quick examples of companies that have grown and succeeded and are doing really well who went through your loan program?
"Interiors and Sew On, in North Jackson! She actually came back and got a second loan from us. Liberty Open MRI was obtained through a sale, and now they’re opening a second one.
Our ideal goal is to give them a loan and get their credit up, so they become bankable. This loan is kind of like a stepping stone to get a bank loan."
What other kinds of loan programs do you offer?
"SBA 504, these are larger loans that we have to get approved by the SBA.
The regional 166 state is for manufacturing companies, larger loans done in conjunction with a bank. Our revolving loan is for all sizes and all companies; our USDA loan is for companies within their service area. For the SBA ILP loan, you have to be declined by a bank. We need to have one job per $65,000 that we lend. The goal is job creation."
Thoughts on the future of the region? What do you like that’s happening? Where do you hope to see it go?
"Everything, Especially what the Marchionda's are doing downtown. They’re doing the 422 corridor and beautification. We have a loan down there with Happy Campers, and now they’re leading something down there for beautification as well. I love being able to lend to these businesses and see the growth and create jobs. The opportunity will be there for generations to come. I want to see it grow to be a great place for my kid’s generation. Everything gets better with age."
Any companies you have an eye on that are bringing more growth to the area?
"The buying of the old steel mill by AutoParkIt in Warren; we’ve talked to them and worked with them, and they’re going to bring a lot of jobs to that area. One place who brought a lot more jobs than expected was Dearing Compressor. She’s done a fabulous job."
Eugene Calabria is the CEO and President of GBS Corp, a leading information solutions provider that improves processes for their clients by enhancing their productivity. Eugene also serves on VGV’s Advisory Board and GBS helps the firm with due diligence on companies, particularly on technology evaluations. We spoke with him about GBS and its role in the region.
Give us a quick background about yourself and what you do/where you started:
"I began my career at GBS upon graduating from Youngstown State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. I was hired in the technology division of GBS where I achieved top honors as “Salesman of the Year” for (5) consecutive years. During this time, I achieved “Millionaire’s Club” status in recognition of the top 5 sales producers among 150 sales reps and 80 resellers across the U.S. In 1987, I was charged to establish the GBS Healthcare division and led a team consisting of sales, software development, technicians and customer service personnel. Partnering with world class software and technology developers, GBS became one of the largest (Value Added Resellers) in the U.S.
In 1995, I was promoted to President of GBS’s technology division. During this period, I worked with a management team to expand GBS’ product and service offerings and developed technology solutions in new markets including government, education, wholesale distribution, and credit unions. It was during this time that the technology division at GBS experienced several consecutive years of double digit sales and profit growth."
What is GBS doing today?
"Today, GBS provides hospitals and physicians across the U.S. with consulting, revenue cycle management and IT services. GBS supports innovative software applications to help its clients deploy electronic health records, billing, accounting, population health, data analytics and business process optimization."
What do you do currently at the company?
"In 2005, I was promoted to CEO of GBS Corporation, a multi-faceted company that offers a full range of information management solutions including IT security, software and network services. GBS owns several manufacturing plants that provide marketing, commercial printing, labels and tags for clients across the globe. I have extensive experience with acquisitions, leading GBS through the successful acquisition and integration of over a dozen companies. Today, GBS is a family of divisions who support the information management needs of several thousand clients across the U.S."
How do you see VGV playing a role in the region?
"VGV was established to support high growth companies in our Valley and across the state of Ohio. VGV is a conduit by which companies can grow at an accelerated rate by combining the financial resources and business expertise of VGV with entrepreneurs who have the vision and talent to create innovative solutions for its customers. It has been quite impressive to be part of and witness the strategic synergies that the have been established between VGV, the YBI (Youngstown Business Incubator), Mercy Health, the Tech Belt Energy & Innovation Center (TBEIC), MVEDC, and our great University, Youngstown State, who have partnered to make Youngstown a technology hub where ideas and innovation can be fostered to create new job opportunities within the community, especially for our youth who are looking for these types of jobs when they graduate."
What made you want to collaborate with VGV?
"To be honest, I think we have an obligation to insure our children and the youth of our Valley have a bright future here. I think we are all tired of watching our young graduates – who were raised by great families, with a great education and great values – have to leave our Valley to pursue software/technology opportunities elsewhere. We educate and raise our children just so they can leave and take their talents elsewhere. That doesn't make sense to me unless they desire to leave for other reasons. GBS was one of the first software and technology companies in the area. I envision a day when we are known as a community that fosters many job opportunities including manufacturing, software development, innovation and technology. VGV and YBI have inspired young entrepreneurs who possess the intelligence, energy, vision and drive to remain in our community. These are entrepreneurs who want to have a stake in their own company and generate wealth for their families, develop their communities and create opportunities for others. These organizations understand that the credit for success justly goes to the entrepreneur. They bet on the ability of the founding team to develop their business, adapt to inevitable changes in their plans, and to grow with their companies."
Where do you see the Mahoning Valley in the future?
"I was born in Youngstown and take great pride in our past, present and future. I have observed times of growth and prosperity as well as tough times of economic contraction and high unemployment. I distinctly remember September of 1977 when Youngstown Sheet and Tube closed and thousands of people (including my father) lost their jobs. Families were devastated as Youngstown was one of the largest steel producing cities in the U.S. It was events like this that forced many people to leave the Valley. We witnessed the population cut in half. It was a difficult and dark time for families here in the Valley. However, many have stuck around with a deep desire and motivation to make Youngstown prosperous again. I think for so many who are deeply rooted here are proud to be part of the positive changes taking place and observing growth and expansion in many new industries. It took decades to recover; but today, the Mahoning Valley has become a hub for new software, IT, energy, and other companies to thrive. I am thankful for the tireless effort of VGV, the YBI, YSU, Mercy Health, TBEIC, The Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation and many others who are making the Mahoning Valley great again."
CLEVELAND, Aug. 24, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Sotera Medical Corp., a medical device company developing a novel device for use in cardiac procedures to treat atrial fibrillation, has added an investor to its seed funding round with an investment from Valley Growth Ventures (VGV). "It's exciting to have VGV as a partner. Their team brings a lot of knowledge and a strong network of relationships in addition to their investment capital," says William Fuller, CEO and co-founder. "The addition of VGV's investment puts us in position to achieve our first clinical milestone in 2019."
This is one of the first investments for VGV, a fund based in Youngstown, Ohio, that supports high-growth, early-stage companies across the state, with a preference for those in Northeast Ohio. "Our investment in Sotera Medical represents our belief in the team and their technology. Along with being an excellent investment opportunity, we see Sotera Medical as an important advancement in the treatment of atrial fibrillation," says VGV managing director Ernie Knight. With this investment, VGV joins other seed round investors including JumpStart Inc., North Coast Angel Fund, Northwest Ohio Tech Fund II managed by ProMedica Ventures, private investors, and the State of Ohio.
Sotera's unique device addresses an important unmet clinical need in the treatment of atrial fibrillation (AF), an irregular heartbeat that, if left untreated, can lead to blood clots, stroke, or heart failure. AF is often treated with a procedure called catheter ablation, which is not without risk to the esophagus. To address this risk, Dr. Emile Daoud, co-founder of Sotera and director of electrophysiology and professor of clinical medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center -- along with a team of physicians -- developed a unique device to better protect the esophagus during catheter ablation. "Catheter ablation technologies for the treatment of AF are continually advancing and improving, but the problem of protecting the esophagus remains in the forefront," said Daoud. "Sotera's innovative technology addresses an important unmet need that improves patient outcomes and safety."
Sotera Medical Corp., formed in early 2017, is a medical device company focused on innovative solutions for cardiac procedures. The company's initial product is a simple, yet comprehensive solution for reducing complications to the esophagus during catheter ablation treatment for atrial fibrillation. Sotera's team is motivated to provide advanced solutions for superior healthcare.
Contact: William Fuller, firstname.lastname@example.org, 440-279-8091
SOURCE Sotera Medical