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David O. Smith is this year’s William T. (Bill) Robinson III Upward and Onward! Award winner

“Never simply accept what someone else may be telling you about your ‘limitations’ – that you should be satisfied with where you are – if your intuition tells you that you can stretch to even higher levels of success and rise from a local to a regional or even to a national level of achievement.” — William T. (Bill) Robinson 

One of the biggest highlights of the REDI Cincinnati Annual Meeting is the William T. (Bill) Robinson III Upward and Onward! Award, named in honor of the late attorney and Greater Cincinnati economic developer who embodied the qualities of: 

  • Regionalism – supporting REDI’s mission to unite the region to compete globally
  • Activism – serving as a tireless champion of economic development
  • Spirit – living with enthusiasm and passion for the progress of our three-state region
  • Optimism – jumping into action regardless of the challenge 

At this year’s ceremony, which took place March 21 at Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, REDI Cincinnati President and CEO Kimm Lauterbach presented the award to prolific economic developer and Cincinnati native David O. Smith.

“We pay homage to Bill for the brilliance he showed in every aspect of his personal and professional life,” said REDI Cincinnati President and CEO Kimm Lauterbach, following a moment of silence in Robinson’s memory. 

This year’s recipient of the prestigious award, David Smith spent 15 years in planning, directing, and managing positions at the local government level before joining what was then the Cincinnati Gas & Electric Company. Amid organizational transitions, Smith served as Director of Economic Development, overseeing economic development activities for more than 3,000 square miles of territory in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. 

“Duke Energy, as well as predecessor companies Cinergy and CG&E, always held community development as part of their DNA, understanding that a strong economically vibrant community was in the long run really good for the utility business,” Smith said, accepting the award. 

Smith’s involvement in the economic development community also helped companies like International Paper, Mitsubishi, Pioneer, Sumitomo, Advics, Messier-Bugatti, and Festo grow their presence in the Greater Cincinnati region. He is past President of the Utility Economic Development Association, and has served as Chair of the Ohio Economic Development Council and as a Board Member of the Mid-American Economic Development Council. 

In 2012, Smith was appointed by the President of the Ohio Senate and currently serves as a member of the Ohio Tax Credit Authority. First appointed by Ohio Governor Taft in 1999, Smith served as Board Member of the Ohio Development Financing Advisory Council until late 2012, when the loan review responsibilities were absorbed by JobsOhio. He is a co-founder of the Ohio Business Development Coalition, and continued on its executive board until it was merged into JobsOhio. He has served as chair of the Cincinnati USA Regional Marketing Partnership, and as President of the Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Foundation. He served on the Board of the European American Chamber of Commerce, and currently sits on the boards of the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and the Mason Port Authority, and is vice-chair of the Cincinnati Community Improvement Corporation. 

“I’ve been able to promote the Greater Cincinnati region to help bring economic opportunity and grow jobs for more than 35 years,” said Smith. “To even be mentioned in the same sentence as Bill Robinson is truly humbling. I had the privilege to serve with Bill on the Tri-ED board. He was always willing to undertake a challenge if it made the community better.” 

Smith is a graduate of Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. He and his wife Sherry, a former elementary school teacher, have two adult sons and four grandchildren.