by Don Dodson, Champaign-Urbana News Gazette
CHAMPAIGN – If Tim Hoerr needs a descriptive catch phrase after his name, he could easily use “your business connection.” The 47-year-old Champaign man serves as CEO for two different companies and as president of his own.
Plus, he’s on the board of directors for five other companies and is a consultant for a start-up firm on campus.
If that’s not enough, Hoerr (pronounced “hair”) has just become chairman of the board of directors of the Champaign County Economic Development Corp.
“I’ve always been a multitasker,” the Peoria area native said. “I thrive on challenge. I enjoy the challenge of working on multiple things.”
Throughout most of the 1980s and ’90s, Hoerr worked as a consultant for RSM McGladrey, where he had ample opportunity to see the inner workings of many businesses.
Most of that time was spent in Champaign, but in 1995, he and his family headed to San Diego. They returned three years later, and Hoerr began providing direction for several area companies.
In 2001, he became chief executive officer of iCyt, a bioscience technology company founded by Gary Durack. During Hoerr’s tenure, the company was twice named one of the Best Places to Work in Illinois. He stepped down as CEO of iCyt a year ago, but remains on its board of directors.
“It was time,” Hoerr said, adding that he and Durack initially discussed a two-year period in which Hoerr would be a transitional CEO.
“Two years turned into seven,” Hoerr said. “It was fun, and it was challenging.”
But last year, Hoerr decided it made more sense to go back to his original calling of “catalyzing new things.”
Besides serving on the iCyt board, Hoerr is on the board of Litania Sports Group, the Champaign sports equipment company that sells the Gill and Porter brands.
He’s also a board member and shareholder in Gameday Spirit, which sells University of Illinois sports apparel, and Collegiate Marketing, which supplies dormitory rental furniture to university campuses.
But Hoerr’s principal business is Serra Ventures, named for Junipero Serra, a Franciscan priest who planted nine missions in California. Hoerr said he was inspired by the priest’s example of “setting out on a mission to do something impactful.”
In the case of Serra Ventures, the mission is providing business-strategy and capital-formation services and transitional executive leadership.
That’s how Hoerr happens to be CEO of Cbana Laboratories, a microscale gas chromotography business co-founded by UI professors Rich Masel and Mark Shannon.
Hoerr is also CEO for ImmuVen Inc., an early stage company co-founded by UI Professor David Kranz and Pat Schlievert, a professor at the University of Minnesota. That firm hopes to develop therapies that use T-cells to treat infections.
In each case, Hoerr is working to get funding in place, developing business plans and building business relationships for the companies.
Meanwhile, he’s acting as a consultant for Snapshot Energy, a start-up firm working to convert animal and human waste to biocrude. The technology was developed by UI professors Yuanhui Zhang and Lance Schideman.
And there’s one more hat for Hoerr: He’s on the board of directors for Diagnostic Photonics, a company developed by UI professors Steve Boppart and Paul Scott Carney. That firm is developing a medical imaging system with possible applications in treating breast cancer.
Hoerr said he realizes how many responsibilities he has.
“I’m working on recruiting a couple colleagues to assist with opportunities because I’m reaching capacity,” he said.
Hoerr said he got involved in the economic development corporation because he feels “it’s important to be engaged in the community.” But he said the “heavy lifting” is done by the staff, headed by CEO John Dimit.
The economic development group faces big challenges, such as the future of the ACH Foods plant, scheduled to close this year.
Meanwhile, the group is wrestling with its own problem, namely how to operate on a $398,000 budget that is 9 percent less than last year.
The group has a strategic plan that lays out objectives for the coming year, including the principal goals of attracting and retaining business.
New initiatives that Hoerr is particularly interested in include:
– Building an angel investor/venture capital network that can provide capital to new enterprises.
– Developing a roundtable that brings together people from the local health care, medical and biomedical communities.
Hoerr said he sees the massive Blue Waters data processing center, under construction at the University of Illinois, as “incredibly exciting.”
The ultra-powerful computing center could have the same potential for business spinoffs that the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, formed two decades ago, has had, he said.
Lynne Barnes, who served as the economic development group’s chair through June 30, said Hoerr has an easygoing style and gets along well with others.
“With his economic entrepreneurship, Tim will add a lot to our organization,” she said.
“He brings to the table maybe less traditional (business) relationships than most of us,” Barnes said, citing Hoerr’s national and global connections. “He’ll make us think out of the box.”