Phil Castle, The Business Times
For now, the spacious room on the second floor of the Fruita Civic Center offers office space with desks and a conference table.
What the room becomes, however, will depend on the needs of entrepreneurs using the satellite operation of the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction.
“It’s a blank canvas,” said Jon Maraschin, executive director of the center.
The room could continue to offer space to businesses that otherwise would operate out of garages or atop kitchen tables. Walls and doors could be installed to partition businesses. Or the room might feature a combination of open space and rooms, Maraschin said.
It could be several years before the satellite operation in Fruita takes shape. But only about four months into the effort, the response already has been encouraging, Maraschin said.
The Business Incubator Center opened the satellite operation last fall in about 1,700 square feet of space previously occupied by the Fruita branch of the Mesa County Library.
The center offers a range of services to new and existing businesses, including free and low-cost counseling and classes, low-cost space with shared services and financing through a revolving loan fund.
Staff from the center meet with entrepreneurs in Fruita during regular office hours twice a week as well as by appointment. Classes also are conducted there.
Maraschin said there’s a need for the operation given the number of businesses in Fruita. By one count, more than 500 businesses operate within the city limits.
Maraschin suspects that total includes startups that operate out of garages or homes and could use the space available at the satellite operation.
Moreover, the satellite operation offers considerable convenience to entrepreneurs who work in Fruita and otherwise would have to travel to the center in Grand Junction to meet with staff, he said Fruita City Manager Clint Kinney said the city supports the operation with space and funding as part of its efforts to promote economic development and job growth.
The Mesa County commissioners also support the Business Incubator Center and its programs, including the satellite operation in Fruita.
“I believe the incubator mission fills a great need in the county,” said Commissioner Steve Aquafresca.
Aquafresca characterized the effort as as an educational one in teaching entrepreneurs how to turn their ideas into businesses that sell products and services.
Moreover, the Business Incubator Center has a proven track record over the past 25 years in helping entrepreneurs start and grow businesses, he said. Since the center opened in 1987, more than 260 firms have graduated from the incubator program, a success rate of about 80 percent of all firms that have participated in the program.
Commissioner Rose Pugliese said center and its programs — along with the renewed efforts of a regional manufacturing alliance — will help to bolster local economic development. “I think they’re going to really help us.”
Commissioner John Justman said he’s pleased the services of the center are now available at the satellite operation. “It’s going to be exciting for Fruita. It’s going to be handy for people here.”
The Fruita satellite office of the Business Incubator Center is located in the Civic Center at 325 E. Aspen Ave. The office is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and by appointment. For additional information, call 243-5242.