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Awards honor incubator professionals for their contributions and achievements

October 2013

NBIA honored two esteemed members for their outstanding service and leadership at the 2013 incubation awards ceremony held in Boston.

NBIA President’s Award

The 2013 NBIA President’s Award recipient is Joel Wiggins, former president and CEO of the Enterprise Center of Johnson County in Lenexa, Kan. Wiggins is a16-year veteran incubation professional, frequent presenter at NBIA conferences, former NBIA board member and chair, and former director of the Austin Technology Incubator in Austin, Texas.

The NBIA President’s Award recognizes the contributions of long-time members who have made significant contributions to the association, as well as to the business incubation industry. In June, Wiggins retired from ECJC to become president of his alma mater, Crown College in St. Bonifacius, Minn.

While completing doctoral studies in communications at The University of Texas at Austin, a friend encouraged Wiggins to apply for a research internship at the Austin Technology Incubator. Wiggins became a full-time employee of the incubator in 1998 and became executive director in 2000.

A little more than five years later, he took the job of ECJC president and CEO in Lenexa, near Kansas City. While there, Wiggins was instrumental in creating the now-thriving Mid America Angels Investments.

The business incubation industry has developed and changed in expected and unexpected ways during his time in the field, Wiggins says. “There’s now a lot more diversity in terms of incubation programs. When I came in, incubation was still young. Incubators were what they were, and they followed a standard model. Today, there is a vast range of programs, and the things they have in common are fewer.”

Member Emeritus Award

NBIA honored Mike LeHere with the 2013 Member Emeritus Award. This award recognizes a retiring NBIA member for outstanding achievement in the business incubation industry.

For nearly 30 years, LeHere led the Akron Global Business Accelerator in Akron, Ohio, one of the industry’s most respected programs. An NBIA member since the association’s inception in 1985, he retired as CEO in December 2012.

During LeHere’s tenure, AGBA expanded considerably. In 2012, AGBA hosted 50 companies that generated $46 million in revenues, attracted more than $35 million in outside investment and created 140 new jobs. That same year, the Cincinnati Business Courier recognized AGBA as the Ohio’s Edison Technology Incubator.

The Akron Industrial Incubator (as the Akron Global Business Accelerator was originally known) opened in 1983 with LeHere at the helm. Under LeHere’s leadership, the incubator developed high-level programs for U.S. companies and nondomestic firms including the Global Technology Commercialization Initiative to support new domestic start-ups and to attract nondomestic firms involved in advanced materials, advanced energy, biomedicine, information technology, and instrumentation/controls/electronics. Through the Global Technology Commercialization Initiative, LeHere and his staff developed multiple international partnerships in Germany, Israel and Finland.

“NBIA and its members have been enriched by Mike LeHere’s dedication to the incubation industry,” says NBIA Senior Advisor Tracy Kitts. “He has been a true model of industry best practices for nearly three decades. We at NBIA applaud his outstanding career and his efforts to give back to the industry.”

Keywords: Incubator management, people, NBIA programs, client services – general

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