Westerville has partnered with TechColumbus to help spur business growth in the city.

Westerville has partnered with TechColumbus to help spur business growth in the city.

Westerville City Council approved a $100,000 partnership May 17 to join TechColumbus' Entrepreneurial Signature Program.

Through the program, TechColumbus will place a staff member in Westerville two days a week to work on establishing networking programs for potential entrepreneurs, creating entrepreneurial workshops on a monthly basis and identifying prospective entrepreneurs and potential start-up businesses, as well as potential investors for them.

The TechColumbus employee also will meet with existing Westerville companies that are in the developmental stages or that are looking at spinoff projects and will help to look for other sources of funding for the city's proposed business incubator.

The partnership is meant to be a two-year deal, with the city paying an additional $100,000 for the program in January.

However, that amount would have to be included in the budget council approves at the end of the year, and the agreement includes an opt-out clause if council chooses not to renew the deal next year, Westerville economic development administrator Jason Bechtold said.

Through the deal, Bechtold said, Westerville's existing businesses and those looking to start within the city will have access to TechColumbus programs and will be able to receive business assistance, such as one-on-one coaching and marketing and advice in finding capital, financing options and suitable locations.

Councilman Craig Treneff cast the lone "no" vote against the partnership.

He said he did not believe the deal is likely to help create enough jobs to generate enough income tax to cover the $100,000 expenditure.

"I'm just not convinced that we'll ever see anything approaching a return on this investment," he said. "There's too much payroll that would have to be generated to get back $100,000 than this program is likely to produce."

Treneff said he sees value in TechColumbus' experience in assisting businesses, but still could not justify the cost.

"There may be some value added because of TechColumbus' experience in this area," he said. "The development of employment is important and appropriate, it's just this specific contract is troubling to me."

Other council members said spending $100,000 for the services for the rest of this year will give the city a chance to see what kind of results TechColumbus can produce.

"I want to see where it's going to go. I don't feel we're committing a huge part of our budget," Mayor Kathy Cocuzzi said.

Council chairman Mike Heyeck said with so many other communities offering similar services, the partnership with TechColumbus will help Westerville stay competitive in attracting businesses.

"This is really trying to participate in central Ohio," Heyeck said.