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Janesville awarded $1.2 million for small-business incubator

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
September 22, 2010
— Janesville is getting in the business of growing businesses.

The city was awarded a $1.2 million federal construction grant to build a small-business incubator. The city has agreed to a 25-percent match of $400,000.


The grant is “significant,” said Vic Grassman, the city’s economic development director.


The money will build a 24,000 square-foot facility on 4.17 acres of city-owned industrial land located at 2901 Beloit Ave on the southeast corner of Venture Drive and Beloit Avenue. The facility will be open to manufacturing tenants and will include about 4,000 square feet of office space and 20,000 square feet of open space.


The Rock County Small Business Incubation and Innovation Center could be open by late next year.


“This is very cool,” Grassman said.


A business incubator provides a physical business front for entrepreneurs, including minimal space needs, conference rooms and other business amenities. The spaces will be about 1,500 to 2,000 square feet, which are difficult to find for manufacturing purposes, Grassman said.


Adjustable walls can move as the businesses outgrow their spaces. The companies typically leave after a couple of years to open space for other fledgling businesses, Grassman said.


About 70 percent of the building would be leased, leaving space for expansions.


Grassman believes the area has the entrepreneurs to fill the space.


Organizers of a small business contest were pleasantly surprised when 22 existing small businesses or emerging start-ups qualified for an “accelerate your business plan contest” sponsored by Rock County 5.0, a five-year public/private initiative with a goal to reposition and revitalize the county’s economy.


Eighteen remain in the program, and a winner will be named in October, Grassman said.


The incubator is the final leg of a three-legged stool, Grassman said. About 80 percent of all new jobs are created by small businesses, he said. A small business in this case is defined by having 100 employees or less.


Business attraction along with retention and expansion represent the other legs.


The city would manage the incubator and, depending on cash flow, might hire a part-time manager in the future.


Grassman is “cautiously optimistic” the incubator will operate in the black in less than two years.


Janesville’s application was approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration.


The grant is funded through the Community Trade Adjustment Assistance Program under the 2009 Trade and Globalization Assistance Act, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Funds are meant to go to communities that have suffered severe job losses due to international trade impacts.



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