Establishing a Local Business Incubator
“Be it a tree or a business, if planted in your back yard, it tends to stay where planted.” Maureen Collins-Williams
There are three approaches to building a strong business presence which in turn leads to economically thriving communities. First and most importantly we must support our existing businesses. Secondly we can encourage disparate established companies to establish extensions of their businesses in our communities. Finally, we can encourage and support those entrepreneurs among us to create new start-up businesses in their hometowns in Buchanan County. Companies like Collins Radio, Microsoft, Apple, Geater Machining and Triangle Plastics were all started by individuals who pursued a dream. We need to support the dreamers amongst us as we will benefit from their successes.
Let’s grow our own businesses! The Independence Area Chamber and the Buchanan County Economic Development Commission (BCEDC) are pursuing the possibility of establishing a business incubator in the 2nd floor of the Chamber building. The goal of any successful incubator is to provide support as entrepreneurs wrestle with the trials of start-up. Challenges facing new business startups include finances, access to professional guidance and being immersed in an atmosphere that encourages creative processes. The Chamber and BCEDC boards of directors have taken the 1st step needed to establish a business incubator that provides an environment where local entrepreneurs can successfully launch their business.
The Chamber and the BCEDC have hired Martin-Gardner Architecture (MGA) from Strawberry Point and Marion to conduct a study to determine feasibility and costs of converting the 2nd story loft into an incubator. MGA CEO Dave Martin is an Independence native and he’s pleased to be able to work on a project in his hometown. BDEDC Director George Lake stated, “MGA is one of the most experienced architectural firms in the state when it comes to historic restoration of commercial business districts. Plus, Dave Martin still maintains a home locally and feels a strong personal connection with the project. We are lucky to be working with a firm like MGA.”
Chamber Director Alissa Westphal said, “The last time that the 2nd floor was used as apartments was in 1980 and it was a bit messy. Chamber volunteers have pretty much gutted the 2nd floor of their building and it’s neat to see character of the space. Laying bare the bones of the loft enables us to more easily envision the possibilities of creating a business incubator.”
To help determine a business model for the potential incubator, Chamber and BCEDC board members and staff visited three existing business incubators in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. The two local organizations will work with MG Architecture to determine a floor plan and subsequent project costs. Once additional project information is gathered, an informed decision can be made on how to proceed.
For additional information, contact Chamber Director Alissa Westphal 319-334-7178 or BCEDC Director George Lake 319-334-7497.