The Dublin Entrepreneurial Center has exceeded expectations.
The DEC, which currently houses more than 100 startup companies at 565 Metro Place South, will celebrate five years in operation at the Conference Center at OCLC, 6600 Kilgour Place, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20.
During the past five years, the DEC has connected businesses with services, offered space and more, said Dana McDaniel, Dublin's director of economic development and a deputy city manager.
"We started with no companies and now have over 100 in the entrepreneurial center," McDaniel said.
"So it's over 100 companies plus affiliated organizations like the Ohio Fuel Cell Coalition (and) Center for Innovative Food Technology," he said.
"Support services like that have located in the entrepreneurial center in support of companies.
"TechColumbus and the Small Business Development Council are here quite often."
An entrepreneurial camp for kids, green integrator for green startups, an entrepreneurial bootcamp for veterans and TechDEC to assist tech companies also number among the DEC's programs.
Dublin is known as the home of large companies and headquarters and the DEC has helped the city support hundreds of small businesses and assist the next big thing, McDaniel said.
"A lot of these companies started and grew here in Dublin like some of the iconic companies like Cardinal Health and Wendy's," he said.
"We just thought the next great company is here and needs a hand up in getting there.
"The whole idea behind that is to develop that idea and learn how to market and get that idea into a company formation and get it into the market," McDaniel said.
"That's the whole premise behind this."
While the DEC offers space for startup companies, it also provides networking, training and potential access to capital, McDaniel said.
"Nearly 3,000 people a year take training classes there to learn to be entrepreneurs or take specific classes about running a company," he said.
"It's a great model of synergy. It's amazing how it keeps spinning on."
Training offered at the DEC is provided for free, which is different from other entrepreneurial centers and incubators.
Funding for the DEC is also done differently, McDaniel said.
"We didn't say this is something the city will bear on its own," he said.
"We went out and found partnerships so we're not doing it all by ourselves.
" ... We stand back and feed it, it just keeps going.
"Part of the challenge has been staying out of the way," McDaniel said.
"We're getting more and more calls about it as a model to do it without over-investing public dollars."
But for the funds Dublin does spend at the DEC, money comes back to the city through the new businesses established.
"The DEC is supported by the economic development team so we certainly work with (businesses) to find other spaces and introduce them to the real estate community," McDaniel said.
The city works to keep the companies in Dublin once they outgrow the DEC and have offered incentives in the past, McDaniel said.
The Feb. 20 anniversary celebration will include remarks from McDaniel, Dublin Mayor Michael Keenan, TechColumbus CEO Tom Walker and Dublin entrepreneur Ray Shealy.
Shealy was part of InfoMotion Sports Technology and the 94Fifty smart sensor basketball, McDaniel said.
The company received investments from TechColumbus, which Dublin has also invested in to support startups.
"The city has invested to date $1.2 million in the TechColumbus partnership," McDaniel said, adding Dublin companies have received $30 million in investments from TechColumbus.
"It's a pretty huge investment back into the Dublin community," McDaniel said.
"This is a whole ecological system in trying to get companies from idea to market."