By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
I am sure most regular readers of this column realize I spent some time involved in state government and state budget writing. During Gov. Brad Henry’s tenure, I served as his secretary of finance and revenue after first serving as state finance director and, then, as state treasurer. I worked on eight state budgets while at the state capitol and met with a host of state agencies, state contractors, and other interested parties on a regular basis.
I did not realize at the time that one of those meetings would have a profound impact on my life. Early in my state service, someone representing an entity named “i2E” asked for an introductory meeting. The man that introduced me to i2E was the organization’s president and CEO at the time. He was a bespectacled, white-headed gentlemen with a permanent twinkle in his eye named Greg Main.
Greg explained to me that i2E contracted with the state’s science and technology agency, OCAST, to provide advice and assistance to help grow high-growth companies in Oklahoma. He formerly had served as Oklahoma’s secretary of commerce and had also been deputy director of Michigan’s Department of Commerce. He was a consummate economic development professional who understood the importance of a state growing its own jobs organically instead of putting all its efforts exclusively into trying to lure large national companies to move into a state. He also understood Oklahoma’s need to diversify its economy.
Greg made a compelling case for i2E’s importance to the state’s economic development efforts, and I was immediately sold. I worked with him over the next few years to help provide some startup capital in the form of a Seed Fund for i2E to manage as it was very clear that without the state “priming the pump” in the startup space, there was not enough capital in Oklahoma to nurture and grow startup ventures.
Greg left to return to his native Michigan in 2008 to serve as president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation until returning to Oklahoma in 2011 for his dream job as president of St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee.
About the same time in 2011, I finished my state service and joined the law firm of Crowe & Dunlevy as head of its Banking and Financial Institutions Practice Group. Then, in 2013, I was fortunate enough to become the new “Greg Main” at i2E as its new president and CEO, replacing Greg’s successor, Tom Walker.
Greg Main, the man who introduced me to i2E and my eventual dream job, passed away June 4 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was steadfast in his belief that new jobs from new Oklahoma companies was the wave that would lift all our boats. He gave much to our state and to me personally. I will never forget him.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.