By Annalisa Pearson
The Business Incubator Center is a non-profit organization that has 25 years of proven experience generating tangible results in expanding and diversifying Mesa County’s economy. The Center offers comprehensive services to businesses through the collaborative efforts of four programs. The Business Incubator Center provides business coaching and workshops through the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), financial support through the Business Loan Fund of Mesa County, hands-on business development through the Incubator Program and tax credits for investment and job creation through the Enterprise Zone.
Founded in 1987 by a group of community leaders, the Incubator Center was one of several initiatives created after the 1982 economic bust to diversify the economy and create jobs. The program was initially funded with a $75,000 Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant, which used Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to address slum and blight issues. The original site was a 40,000 square foot Biggs Kurtz warehouse owned by local businessman George Wheeler. Mr. Wheeler supported the development of the Incubator Program by offering to lease the occupied space for just $1 per square foot, thus enabling the program to self-generate funds. The Center opened with just two tenants.
The Incubator Center was able to quickly expand services by moving the newly created Revolving Loan Fund (started in 1986) from the Mesa County offices into the Center. This provided the Center with the ability to provide direct financial support to businesses. In addition, the Incubator Center provided an office for the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) on site.
The SBDC’s business coaching and workshops are integral to the services provided by the center. In 1993, the Incubator Center was named as the official host institution for the Grand Junction SBDC, thus formalizing this long-standing cooperative effort.
Partially funded by the US Small Business Administration, the Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network is dedicated to helping small businesses throughout Colorado achieve their goals by providing free confidential counseling and various training programs. The SBDC combines information and resources from federal, state and local governments with those of the educational system and the private sector to meet the specialized and complex needs of the small business community. Regulatory, management, financial and marketing experts work in partnership to provide entrepreneurs with crucial information that can mean the difference between success and failure.
In 2010 688 SBDC clients received 1857 counseling hours resulting in 156 jobs created or retained, and $3,200,000 in capital formation. Also in 2010, the incubator created or retained 60 jobs and generated $7.8 million revenues.
In 1999, the Incubator Center moved to the Department of Energy campus and now occupies 60,000 square feet of light manufacturing and office space. The move to this new location required some adaptation of the facilities to meet the needs of the entrepreneurial community. $950,000 was raised from the City of Grand Junction, Mesa County and through the State of Colorado, utilizing Energy Impact funds, to support this capital campaign.
In 2002, The Incubator Center raised $400,000 for building and site improvements from DOLA (Energy Impact funds) and the City of Grand Junction. The majority of these funds were used to open a Commercial Kitchen Incubator Program. The program is a critical tool to support the local agricultural community (peaches, cherries and wineries). All food-related businesses must use a licensed facility to produce commercial food products. The Incubator Center addressed this need with this shared-use kitchen where food producers can legally prepare, process, cook and store food products. It is a fully licensed facility for catering, food preparation, and specialty food production.
For more information, contact Annalisa Pearson, Business Incubator Center, 2591 Legacy Way, Grand Junction, CO 81503; 970.243.5242. www.gjincubator.org or firstname.lastname@example.org