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Economy and Business


Akron is embracing Lithuanian bio-medical start-ups
Akron signs with a European partner in bio-medical startups
by WKSU's MARK URYCKI


Senior Reporter
Mark Urycki
 
Honorary Lithuanian General Consul Ingrida Bublys presented Mayor Don Plusquellic with a handmade sash from Kaunas.
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In The Region:
Local governments in Ohio have been shrinking in size, but the one department that is growing is economic development. Cities and counties have decided to get more involved in attracting business. And Akron has been particularly active in looking overseas.

Yesterday the Akron Global Business Accelerator signed an agreement with a university in Lithuania in hopes of launching some bio-medical start-ups in the city.
URYCKI on the Akron-Lithuanian connection

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It seems that, in any given week, Akron officials are either away on some overseas trip or home hosting some business executives from another country. The city’s Economic Development Director Bob Bowman is always on the go and, as Mayor Don Plusquellic notes, one of those places last year was Lithuania.

"I don't know that Bob Bowman has been as excited coming back from a trip and explaining all of the innovation and technology that he witnessed."  

The excitement comes because Akron is trying to foster bio-medical companies downtown and found a connection with Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania.  One person who helped bring them together is Linas Klimavicius of the Lithuanian Trade Office in Chicago.

"This was the partner in Lithuania that stood out because they are the leader of commercializing technology in Lithuania ... And what the attraction from the university side to Akron is the amazing conglomeration of resources that available here for a business that's ready to take off."

The rector of Kaunas University, Petras Barsauskas, tried to be modest but then said his school is a leader in bio-medical research.

"This is why we hope that this is going to be a mutual benefit .... We will give you some new products ... and you will help to reach the business, reach the companies."

Plusquelllic says the sustained effort to help companies commercialize products is a key difference between the Global Accelerator and other city incubators.
 
He acknowledges such ventures may be only tiny start-ups, but notes that Benjamin Franklin Goodrich came to Akron by himself. Goodrich, by the way, was persuaded to move to Akron by a grant from local businessmen. 

One company here from Lithuania is Integrated Optics. All two of its employees came. They’re both in their 20’s.

Their presentation at the Life Science Baltics Conference won, and their award was a week in Akron. Company CEO Evaldas Pabreza says it may be the smallest laser company in Lithuania, but it also makes the smallest lasers -- two palm-sized lasers, one for medical imaging one for cutting. He says the size can be an advantage with products suited for the aerospace industry. They also use less energy.

In all, some 20 bio-med researchers from Lithuania are visiting Akron this week. City officials hope of these little companies just might become the next Goodrich, or Firestone or Goodyear.  

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