Randal Charlton transitions from TechTown’s executive director role; Leslie Smith assumes leadershipOctober 24, 2011
"Leslie Smith has already made an impact on TechTown's performance, and I'm convinced that she, together with her talented team, will scale TechTown's operations to make a major difference in Detroit," Charlton said. "It's been a privilege to be a part of TechTown's early development, and I am grateful for the broad support from Wayne State University, the Henry Ford Health System, government of all levels and the foundations that have gotten behind this important initiative."
Former Wayne State University President Irvin D. Reid appointed Charlton Interim Executive Director of TechTown on April 1, 2007. In 2009 he was confirmed as Executive Director.
Since Charlton first took command of a nearly empty industrial building with just a smattering of resources, TechTown has transformed into a thriving entrepreneurial community. TechTown currently supports 250 companies and has introduced 8,000 Michigan residents to an entrepreneurial culture through events and walk-in sessions. Additionally, more than 2,200 entrepreneurs have received training through TechTown. To date, TechTown has invested $700,000 directly in early-stage businesses and helped clients raise $14 million in follow-on funding.
Wayne State University President Allan Gilmour, who chairs TechTown's board, remarked at the meeting, "Last month when Randal Charlton and I spoke at a two-day FOCIS conference on retirement, I realized we had something in common: Neither of us could figure out how to do it properly. We will miss Randal and his experience, but are glad he'll still be with us on a part-time basis. We certainly wish him well on his next endeavor."
Upon resigning from TechTown, Charlton will transition into a leadership position with BOOM! The New Economy, a collaborative program funded by the Community Foundation and administered by TechTown, AARP Michigan, Operation ABLE, the Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation and the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce. It enables adults over the age of 50 to engage in Southeast Michigan's new economy by creating pathways to pursue career changes, entrepreneurship and meaningful volunteer service.
Charlton hopes to continue contributing blogs, interviews and articles.
"Under Randal's leadership, TechTown has achieved global recognition as a critical economic catalyst in Detroit," Smith said. "At a time when Detroiters desperately needed hope, they found it at TechTown in the form of a leader who had no boundaries, only the willingness to think beyond the status quo to move Detroit forward with entrepreneurial enthusiasm. We are blessed to have had Randal's visionary passion at TechTown for the past four years and look forward to many more years of partnering with him to support the baby boomer entrepreneur.
"I am personally honored to succeed such an iconic executive and pledge to work tirelessly to continue the important work being done at TechTown; and thank Wayne State University and our entire board of directors for their limitless support of our work and commitment to our mission.
"It is more important than ever that the entire region work together to revitalize the local economy, and TechTown understands its leadership responsibilities in that collaborative effort. Through our programming and partnerships, we will continue to incubate and accelerate small business creation and job growth in and around Detroit by offering entrepreneurs access to a full suite of best-in-class services to move their ideas forward."
Smith joined TechTown as general manager in July 2010. She has contributed to the strategic development of the organization in addition to managing day-to-day operations and serving as the lead liaison between staff, clients, partners and investors.
Previously, she was director of business acceleration for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). At the MEDC, Smith had direct oversight of a $300 million investment portfolio, including state and federal grant and loan programs.
Smith also managed relationships with SmartZones and regional, state and national entrepreneurial service providers including statewide incubation and acceleration services. Prior to that, she was Chief Financial Officer for a privately held real estate firm in Ann Arbor.
Beyond her economic development background, TechTown also benefits from Smith's extensive experience managing multi-faceted organizational teams, implementing best practices, right seating interactive teams, challenging status quo, building multi-dimensional relationships, raising money in complex economic times, managing national real estate portfolios and overseeing site selection and development.
TechTown is a community of passionate, diverse people driven by an entrepreneurial spirit to pursue extraordinary opportunities. TechTown guides entrepreneurs on their journey to success by providing counsel and connections to a host of resources, including unique access to Wayne State University's research and technology assets.
While promoting an inclusive culture of optimism, diversity, collaboration and hope, TechTown is fueling business growth and job creation, leading to the revitalization of Midtown Detroit and beyond.
For more information, visit www.techtownwsu.org.