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December 4, 2020

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15 Minutes with Dick McGarrity, retiring BCE board member

"I think now is a great time to start a business"

Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs executive director Paula Scott talked with former BCE board member, executive director, and founder Dick McGarrity. Dick has been term-limited off the board of directors –- but clearly is never limited in his enthusiasm for this 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves entrepreneurs in Allen, Hancock, Hardin and Putnam counties.

Paula: Let’s start at the beginning. How did you become part of the Bluffton business community?

Dick: When I retired and moved to Bluffton with my family my biggest fear was that I might not be relevant to the community. My wife, Jayne, lived here through high school and knew many people already, but I felt like I could be an outsider for some time unless I could fill some community need. 

Then I looked at my portfolio of skills and was disappointed to realize that though they had served me reasonably well in my career with large companies, they had little relevance in Bluffton. I did teach for a couple of years at Bluffton University in the Business Department and that brought me into contact with a number of MBA students whom I tried to learn from as I taught them.  

Also, I served as a member of the Bluffton council and that gave me some insights into the commercial life of the village, but I felt like I needed to do more.

BCE: How did the Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs become an idea, how did it get its start?

Dick: At some point Ropp Triplett collared me and told me that Bluffton was sorely in need of more entrepreneurs. His belief was that, though Bluffton had one of the finest school systems in the state – now in the U.S.– many of our young people left after they completed their education because they didn’t feel that there were sufficient career opportunities available to fulfill their aspirations.  

Ropp believed everyone had the ability to be an entrepreneur and all they needed was a helping hand. His son Larry, along with others, had recently started a business incubator in Zanesville which had already attracted a lot of participation and was responsible for several budding new businesses. 

Larry was very generous in sharing his enthusiasm with us. He invited us to several exciting events in the Zanesville-Columbus area and we concluded that, though Zanesville is larger than Bluffton, the incubator there could serve as a prototype for an incubator serving Bluffton and surrounding counties.  

Then it was just a matter of finding people in the professional and academic communities who would serve on the Board. We were surprised as we began to contact people and no one told us “no.”

Paula: What kept you involved in the organization?

Dick: I suppose there is something to the old saw that time flies when you’re having fun. And that’s what I was having. It was great working with Ropp. He could come up with ideas a mile a minute (much faster than I could implement them!) He was the epitome of an inventor/entrepreneur.

Paula: What goals kept you in the organization?

Dick: Well, I found that I was suffering less from feelings of irrelevance and that I was helping to fill a community need. We were meeting our objective of facilitating the creation of at least 10 jobs per year and I had a gang to hang out with, so I didn’t drive Jayne crazy at home.

Paula: Is this a good time to start a business?

Dick: I think now (Fall 2020) is a great time to start a business. Interest rates are about as low as they can go and the federal government is trying to push as much money into the economy as prudently possible in order to forestall a recession or worse. 

Also, the local economy remains fairly stable as demand for agricultural and automotive products remains stable.  Some sectors, such as travel and leisure, are depressed but these, though important, are not major factors in the local and regional economy. People have as many needs as ever, though the needs have changed since Covid.

Paula: What have you learned from area entrepreneurs?

Dick: This was a whole new world for me – almost a new religion. I learned that businesses I didn’t think would succeed, because they broke all the rules, could succeed. I learned that individuals who didn’t think they had the makings of an entrepreneur could reinvent themselves. I learned that there are no real secrets to success – except for determination, hard work and a refusal to quit.

Paula: Any other questions we should have asked?

Dick: You could have asked what comes next, but maybe it's good you didn’t because I don’t have an answer.  I’ve been retired from BCE for a while now and I don’t know what the organization’s plans are, but I do know that there will always be a “next.”

BCE featured at Friday chamber breakfast
The BCE will present an annual report for 2019-2020 at the Friday, Nov. 13, Bluffton Area Chamber of Commerce meeting. To join this 7:30 a.m. event on Zoom, RSVP to blufftonchamber@gmail.com.

For more information about the Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs, contact Paula Scott at (567) 525-6667 or blufftonce@gmail.com. Visit BlufftonEntrepreneurs.com and Facebook.