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Gov.-elect Kasich charges venture capitalist with renewing Ohio job market

Gov.-elect John Kasich visited Ohio State’s campus Friday to announce the appointment of Mark Kvamme as the director of the Ohio Department of Development.Kvamme, a longtime friend of Kasich, will make only $1 for the job.

At a press conference at the Fisher College of Business, Kasich said that Kvamme, a venture capitalist from California, is the “greatest entrepreneur you can find,” so it was fitting that his involvement with the Ohio job market was announced to a class at the Center for Entrepreneurship.

Kvamme has been charged with analyzing the Ohio Department of Development and facilitating a transition to JobsOhio, a private non-profit corporation that will replace the department. During his six months of full-time work in Ohio, Kvamme will oversee this transition and hire someone as CEO. After that he will advise on a telecommuting basis.

His job will be to “assess what works and what doesn’t work (in the department) and how they can improve with the purpose for creating jobs,” Kasich said. “And to make sure that Ohio is going to answer to be creative and imaginative.”

Currently, about one-third of university graduates leave the state of Ohio within three years of graduation. Similarly, many businesses in Ohio, even those who are recipients of Third Frontier money from the government, relocate elsewhere, a problem that Kasich says must be fixed.

The Ohio Third Frontier program is an initiative started in 2002 to give state funding to companies that promote technology-based economic growth through research and development. Its purpose is to bring Ohio up to a competitive level in the development field.

“I get so mad at companies who high-tail it out of here with the public’s money,” Kasich said. “That’s our money.”

Kvamme admittedly knows little about the state of Ohio but believes the potential of the state is “unbelievable.”

He also said that the future of Ohio is in the universities.

“The average age of the people we fund at Sequoia is 24 to 25. Why?” Kvamme said. “Because they know where the future is.”

During a question-and-answer session with the students in attendance, Kvamme said that he is going to be focused on bringing passion and innovation back into Ohio.

“I’ve seen innovation in real time and you have the resources and the people to do it,” he said.

Among those resources are the universities and university-sponsored programs that exist for research in the state. Kvamme said he believes research should be done at the university level and that the private sector should focus on development.

By nurturing a relationship between research and development, Kvamme said he believes Kasich and others can make Ohio a state where entrepreneurs and developers want to stay.

“They won’t need to go to Silicon Valley, we won’t be able to convince them to come to Silicon Valley,” he said.

Kvamme will be taking a six-month leave from his partnership at Sequoia Capital, a private equity and venture capital firm located in California, where he lives with his wife and daughter. They have three children who have either graduated from or are attending college.

He said his decision to temporarily relocate to Ohio came out of a life goal to “help a million people,” his trust in Kasich and his belief that “nothing is better than finding people passionate about their jobs.”

Among Kvamme’s list of successes is the company Apple, which Kvamme was involved with before it went public, according to Kasich. Kvamme is also identified with YouTube, PayPal, Google, Cisco Systems and Oracle.

Kvamme specializes in media and advertising services investments. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley where he studied French economics and literature.

Though the transition period from the department to JobsOhio is scheduled to take about six months, the process to making Ohio once again the center for innovation and the heartland of the country will take some time, Kasich said.

Kvamme “isn’t Santa Claus. We are going to have to make some tough assessments.”

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