The Research Park Corp. board of directors voted Thursday to hire an Ohio economic developer as its CEO.
Byron C. Clayton, vice president of cluster acceleration for NorTech, a nonprofit group based in Cleveland, was selected after a nearly six-month national search. Clayton has been with NorTech since 2010. Before that, he was a principal with XDI Healthcare, a Cleveland Clinic spin-off company that specialized in behavioral software systems.
The RPC board voted to begin negotiating with Clayton about taking the job. The group set aside $300,000 to cover the annual salary and benefits for a chief executive officer at its November meeting.
The organization runs the Louisiana Technology Park, an incubator for growing fledgling tech businesses, in the Bon Carré Business Center off Florida Boulevard.
Clayton, 57, said he was “digesting the offer” during a phone interview Thursday and hadn’t spoken to his wife about it. “I’m going to make a decision, but it will be very quick,” he said.
“What’s going on in the Baton Rouge region right now is amazing,” he said. “I’m very excited to get the offer.”
Edmund Giering, the RPC board member who headed up the search committee, said Clayton stood out from the three other finalists who were brought to Baton Rouge for interviews with community leaders.
“It became clear that one of the candidates had risen above the rest,” Giering said. Clayton is “very interested” in the job as CEO of the RPC, but NorTech is looking at him for an expanded role with the organization.
Giering said the RPC needs to reach an agreement with Clayton “post-haste” and determine a time frame for him relocating to Baton Rouge.
The RPC hasn’t had a full-time CEO since Eddie Ashworth stepped down in spring 2008 and has been overseen by technology park Executive Director Stephen Loy.
Ashworth, who serves as a member of the RPC board, commended the search committee for finding Clayton. “I did not expect to get a candidate of that caliber with those sets of skills,” he said.
Clayton has a bachelor of arts degree in business management from Malone University in Canton, Ohio, a master’s in business administration from Myers University in Seven Hills, Ohio, and a doctor of management in mergers and acquisitions from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
According to a biography on the NorTech website, Clayton has more than 30 years of experience developing and commercializing manufacturing systems and software for a variety of industries, including automotive, aerospace, defense, nuclear, space and window manufacturing.
Clayton helped bring to market more than 40 high-tech products and systems, served as an adjunct professor in advance degree programs at Case Western and Kent State University, and has two patents for glass manufacturing and optimization software.
Clayton said he was “not very familiar at all” with Baton Rouge until other economic development professionals told him about the opening with the RPC. That led him to look into what was going on locally.
Baton Rouge has a number of attractive selling points for economic development, Clayton said, such as the IBM Service Center, the Water Campus and the research going on at LSU, Southern University and Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
In late September, while Clayton was researching Baton Rouge, a colleague at NorTech attended a conference near Silicon Valley. “He came back and told me what was going on in Louisiana was pretty exciting,” Clayton said. “He didn’t know I was interested in Baton Rouge.”
That led Clayton to apply for the CEO job. “It looks like there are great things going on down here,” he said.
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.