Former Washington Board of Trade head James C. Dinegar is moving into a new position at American University (Photo credit: Will Diamond)

In his 11-year career as chief of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, James C. Dinegar was a tireless connector in D.C.’s lively but fragmented business community. It wasn’t until last year that he stepped down from the board of trade to spend time with his two teenage children after their mother, his ex-wife, passed away.

Now, Dinegar has found a new post that he says will let him juggle work and home: he has accepted a position as the first director of American University’s Center for Business in the Capital, a new research institute focused on the local business community. He starts Thursday morning.

“I really couldn’t do the early mornings and late nights as regularly as I was doing at the board of trade,” Dinegar said. “Stepping from there to this will be a much more predictable schedule. That’s very important in my life and in the kid’s lives, and it allows me to continue to do what I was doing in a very focused way.”

The Center for Business in the Capital will be based out of American University’s Kogod School of Business in Northwest Washington. It’s prime mission is to build new bridges between the university and the broader business community — making connections not unlike the role Dinegar played at the board of trade.

“American University has so much to offer in terms of its talented staff and students, but they would like to get more of that experiential learning going, and that means getting outside the classroom to get downtown, to Silver Spring and Tysons Corner,” he said.

Dinegar is joining the university with no set agenda for where he wants to take the institute.

“I get to go in and really take a good look at things, see where they’ve got assets, and develop a good strategic plan,” Dinegar said.

The new center is just the latest attempt by an area university to seek inroads into the local business community. George Mason University in Northern Virginia is considered one of the most influential, largely due to the work of economist Stephen S. Fuller, who has long charted economic trends in the region. Fuller currently runs the Stephen S. Fuller Institute as part of the Schar School of Policy and Government.