QUINCY -- When Les McKenzie was hired to lead the Quincy Business and Technology Center, he did not expect to stay long.
"I was only going to do it for a year or a year-and-a-half," McKenzie said. "Then they could go out and hire somebody and bring them in after we got it turned around."
However, he found working with the businesses enjoyable and stayed for 19 years. But now he plans to retire as executive director of the nonprofit business incubator at Third and Oak by the end of the year.
"I enjoyed working with the clients and all the support organizations within the community and the creation of over 500 jobs that we were able to put on the street," he said. "The wealth of that to the community is part of what makes Quincy successful."
More than 80 businesses have run through the center, with more than 50 being start-ups. McKenzie said about 65 percent of businesses were successful after they left the center. Twenty businesses currently fill the 67,000-square-foot building, and occupancy has typically remained above 90 percent.
"We've created that kind of environment to where we call this a family of businesses," he said. "We've got 20 businesses there now, and any one of those businesses would do anything they could to help each other."
The success of the center has not gone unnoticed. In 2013, the QBTC was named one of the top rural business incubators in the country by the National Business Incubation Association.
Before he was hired at the QBTC, McKenzie worked 30 years with General Electric, and five years each with Quintron in Quincy and another firm in Houston.
QBTC Board member Mike McGrath said McKenzie's leadership has increased the occupancy, as well as renovated the center to make it more attractive.
"Part of the job of the executive director in that facility is to assist start-up businesses in getting off the ground and to provide some advice, guidance and assistance wherever he can to help their businesses," McGrath said. "What Les brought to the table was just a solid business background."
McGrath said the facility was struggling when McKenzie took over.
"We were hoping to have him for three or four years, and here we are 20 years later, and he's just done wonderful work," he said. "He really made the job of board members very easy. He just takes care of all the problems. It's rare where we get called to address any issues."
The board has formed a search committee to find McKenzie's replacement. The goal is to have a new executive director by Jan. 1.
McKenzie plans to spend more time with his son, daughter and grandchildren in retirement.
"I just want to sit back and be a part of the family and a part of the grandchildren's future," he said.