Nearly a year after its grand opening, the Point at Otterbein University is beginning to hit its stride.

The Point is a 61,000-square-foot facility at 60 Collegeview Ave. that serves as the new home of the university's science, technology, engineering, arts and math students.

The facility opened its doors in mid-2016, and was officially launched under its new name – chosen from 75 submissions from faculty and students – on Oct. 1, 2016.

At its opening, Otterbein President Kathy Krendl said she hoped the Point represented the "purposeful intersection of the best principles and strengths (of) education, industry, business, research and government." And after a year, Westerville city and Otterbein leaders say the building is well on its way to achieving those goals.

Executive director Erin Bender, who has been heading up the Point's operation from the beginning, said it's been a whirlwind of a year as the facility "constantly" changes.

"But it was a great first year," she said. "Hopefully we can just continue to expand."

Some expansion will come in the form of attracting more business partnerships.

One of Otterbein's biggest goals with the Point was to have businesses in relevant fields develop on-site offices. With a presence in the building, those companies have brought Otterbein students on as interns and have begun to develop their own talent pool for potential employees.

Companies such as PolymerOhio and Nikola Labs are just a few of those with a major presence, and Bender said demand has only increased.

"We certainly didn't have to go out and beg companies to come in," she said. "We've even had to turn some away lately because we simply don't have the space yet."

Mark Davidson is the vice president of operations at Nikola Labs, which has had an office in the Point since last November. He said the company was attracted to the combination of the Point's environment and the "investment" Otterbein makes in partner businesses.

"Culturally, it's a good fit," he said. "We're a young company and this is a young space. It just fits well."

Jason Bechtold, Westerville's economic development director, said when the center opened he hoped it could help create an "innovation district" in its corridor. A year later, he said he's seeing "incredible momentum."

"That momentum is happening with the exposure that's bringing more and more space for companies to experiment and the collaboration of the coworking space, not to mention the maker space," Bechtold said. "So that's the next step, and I think it will drive development and opportunity in that corridor."

The Point literally is expanding in terms of its facility, as well. The second phase of construction at the site began this week. Plans are to finish the remaining two-thirds of the building, adding spaces that range from additional class and meeting rooms to a back patio and outdoor classroom space that could be used to study biology in the nearby Otterbein Lake or Alum Creek.

And with so much going on, the Point also is launching its public "maker space," where people can sign up for training or access to a wide variety of machinery and creative projects ranging from woodworking equipment to a vinyl cutter. The maker space, Bender said, demonstrates the Point's commitment to providing access to a plethora of options for both Otterbein students and the community.

"I don't know that we have a particular niche," she said with a laugh.

Bender certainly has goals for improving the center. She said she hopes to continue to diversify the uses the building can provide, attract more interest in the workshops the facility offers and put a bit more emphasis on the artistic side of the Point. While she's been staring at the incomplete portion of the building for more than a year, she said she hopes it represents the opportunity to add to a successful first year.

"As much as I look out and think that it's just an empty shell, it's exciting to know what it's going to be," she said.

For more information about the Point, visit Otterbein.edu.

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