Thursday, March 10, 2011

In Memoriam

Originally published March 10, 2011
The Frederick News-Post
By Ed Waters Jr. News-Post Staff

Chris Olson's professional and personal commitment to Frederick County will be missed, according to many of those who worked with him.

Olson, who died Sunday at age 45 after a struggle with cancer, was a consultant at the Frederick County Small Business Development Center.

"Chris Olson was an integral part of the team at the Office of Economic Development, even though he actually worked for the Small Business Development Center," said Laurie M. Boyer, executive director of the Frederick County Office of Economic Development.

"He worked in our office, and we interacted daily with him on shared clients, planning events targeted at small businesses and working on special projects. He was always willing to jump in and lend a hand to whoever might need it, with the best attitude and a wealth of knowledge," Boyer said.

One of Olson's greatest strengths was seeing the value in partnerships and bringing people together to work collaboratively for the betterment of the business community, Boyer said.
"He will be missed more than I can express," she said.

Olson's dedication was felt throughout the community, said Richard Griffin, director of the City of Frederick Department of Economic Development.

"Chris made an indelible mark on the Frederick business community and each of us through his intellect, dedication and sense of humor," Griffin said. "He cared deeply about his family, friends and clients. Frederick is a better community for his efforts. He will be sorely missed."

Olson helped many small businesses get off the ground and counseled those facing challenges in the tough economy.

"The chamber lost a thoughtful colleague and supportive friends and the community lost a strong advocate for local business," said Ric Adams, president and CEO of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce. "We frequently partnered with Chris to present programs for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and he also served on chamber committees. We feel grateful for the opportunity to have worked with him."

Sandy Mehalko, a spokeswoman for the Small Business Development Centers in Western Maryland, said the Frederick Center at 5340 Spectrum Drive would continue operations as scheduled. Alice Growden of the Hagerstown SBDC is covering phone messages and meeting with Olson's clients, Mehalko said. Mark Malec, regional SBDC director, has been in touch with Boyer at the economic office to ensure that client work is taken care of, Mehalko said.

Olson had many achievements in his life. He was an integral part of the Gov. Thomas Johnson High School football team, undefeated for three years and state champions in 1982. He was elected class president in 1983, played in the school's jazz ensemble and appeared on the TV program "It's Academic."

A graduate of the Wharton School of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, he was elected president of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity. After graduation he founded Olson Business Development, serving clients locally and internationally. At the same time, he served as art director for three local publications, was vice president of a venture capital firm, and was chief operating officer for a mail and data processing firm.

Besides helping businesses as a consultant at the Frederick SBDC, Olson was a past president of the Entrepreneur Council of Frederick County and coordinated the Frederick Entrepreneur Support Network. He received the City of Frederick Partners Award and by the national Small Business Development Centers for his outstanding service.

A memorial service will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 35 E. Church St., Frederick, with a reception to follow.