Thursday, February 07, 2002

Taft touts firm as high-tech model

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — To promote his $1.6 billion plan to lure more high-tech jobs to Ohio, Gov. Bob Taft spent an hour Wednesday touring a small Butler County company that developed technology for treating heart arrhythmia.

        The governor said Enable Medical Corp. and its spinoff, AtriCure Inc. — both located in a West Chester industrial park — are the kind of high-tech companies Ohio needs to ensure a strong statewide economy in the future.

        “Companies like these attract the top college graduates from other states and keep our top graduates here,” Mr. Taft said. “They're the kind of new, high-tech start-up companies we want to encourage more of across the state.”

        Michael Hooven, CEO and president of Enable and AtriCure, said Mr. Taft's high-tech initiative could help establish Greater Cincinnati as a leader in the bio-medical technology field.

        “The most important thing for an entrepreneur is access to capital,” he said. “It's very important to establish the funding first and then develop a system for getting it to the people who need it.”

        Mr. Taft's plan, called the “Third Frontier Project,” would place $500 million each into a seed capital fund, research centers and, with the passage next year of a bond issue, recruitment of world-class university researchers. His 10-year, $1.6 billion plan will require the approval of the state legislature.

        The governor also visited high-tech companies in Dayton and Columbus on Wednesday.

        Enable, founded in 1994, and its 2-year-old spinoff, AtriCure, employ 30 to 40 people. Enable designs, manufactures and markets innovative electrosurgical medical devices that make surgeries faster and less invasive.

        Like all startups, Enable had to work hard to gather sufficient seed capital. Mr. Hooven told the governor that some of Enable's venture capital came from Silicon Valley.

        “That's great,” Mr. Taft said. “Bring that money into Ohio.”

        Mr. Hooven showed Mr. Taft a video presentation about the technology developed by AtriCure for treating atrial fibrillation, the most common form of heart arrhythmia.

        Atrial fibrillation, which afflicts 2.5 million Americans, can cause strokes and congestive heart failure.

        In Enable's laboratory, Mr. Taft donned surgical gloves and used AtriCure's specially designed clamping device on a model of a heart.


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