Westerville City Council approved a letter of commitment with TechColumbus last week, signifying the city's intent to continue its partnership with the business incubator for another four years.

Westerville City Council approved a letter of commitment with TechColumbus last week, signifying the city's intent to continue its partnership with the business incubator for another four years.

Council members voted 7-0 on Jan. 17, directing the city manager to enter into a "letter of commitment" with TechColumbus and its TechStart program.

The city will commit $100,000 annually from 2013 to 2017, but that commitment will be contingent on TechColumbus' ability to obtain matching grant funds from the state and council's final approval of each year's annual budget.

Last year, Westerville began partnering with TechColumbus, a nonprofit that aims to help technology-related businesses start up and succeed in central Ohio.

Since June, more than 25 businesses and entrepreneurs in different stages of development have worked with TechColumbus.

Although TechColumbus focuses on information-technology and green-energy businesses, there are also applied-materials businesses and those in the life sciences or health care-oriented fields.

The TechColumbus staff helps the entrepreneurs find coaches, mentors, financial backing and, eventually, buyers and sellers for their products.

The advantage to the partnership with Westerville is that Westerville-based entrepreneurs have TechColumbus representatives focused on them.

Council member Craig Treneff said when TechColumbus approached the city last year, he was skeptical, but he has seen the program pay off for local entrepreneurs.

"We have to make some effort as governmental units to develop businesses the way other countries have," Treneff said.

Council chair Mike Heyeck agreed, saying he sees TechColumbus as a vital part of helping create new Westerville-based businesses.

"I look at this as we're buying the mustard seeds," Heyeck said.

TechColumbus is scheduled to apply for its next round of grant funding by Feb. 2.

In other matters, city manager Dave Collinsworth last week said the mild winter has helped Westerville save money and manpower.

By this time last year, the city had experienced 13 "snow and ice events," compared to just three thus far this winter, he said.

Westerville had spent about $212,000 for salt and supplies by mid-January 2011, compared to just under $20,000 so far this year, according to Collinsworth. Employees had worked a total of more than 840 hours clearing and salting roads in 2011, compared to fewer than 100 so far this winter.

"It's a pretty stark contrast from last season to this season," Collinsworth said.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Feb. 7, at City Hall, 21 S. State St.