Incubator to hatch young businesses

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012
— City and community leaders turned ceremonial shovels of dirt Tuesday on a four-acre parcel that later this year will be home to the Janesville Innovation Center.

They hope the business incubator will hatch companies that might someday fill 225 acres of city-owned land a few hundred yards away.

In 2010, the federal Economic Development Administration awarded the city $1.2 million for the 22,000-square-foot project on Venture Drive.

The city is kicking in $850,000 for the facility that will offer a combination of manufacturing and office space for lease to new and growing businesses.

When it's finished in November, the innovation center will feature nine office suites and four production areas that range from 4,000 to 6,000 square feet. Movable walls will separate the production areas.

"Flexibility with those production areas is the name of the game," said Vic Grassman, the city's economic development director.

Grassman said a flexible building and environment will support local businesses and lead to the creation of new companies and jobs in Janesville.

Tenants, he said, will have access to technical expertise offered through the UW-Whitewater Innovation Center, Blackhawk Technical College's proposed Advanced Manufacturing Center and other business and economic development resources.

When it comes to startup companies, Grassman said Janesville has a need for space that combines affordable, short-term leases with business support services.

The center will give young companies an address, a professional business image and help tapping area resources and expertise.

Room also will be available for more established businesses that need space for business growth, research and development or expanded production.

When a tenant reaches a set of predetermined benchmarks, it will be expected to move out of the facility and into more conventional commercial real estate, Grassman said.

Grassman said companies that start in incubator facilities typically grow and expand within close proximity to their original business location.

Janesville has a history of nurturing businesses, said John Beckord, president of Forward Janesville, the city's private economic development organization.

"They started in a very small setting and grew to something quite significant," he said, offering Grainger and Hufcor as two examples. "If we even have one of those types of companies come out of this center, it will have paid for itself over and over."

In addition to her responsibilities in the Wisconsin Assembly, Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, has mentored entrepreneurs through the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board's E-Hub training program.

She said the Janesville Innovation Center will offer peer-to-peer networking that's critical to entrepreneurs.

"Entrepreneurs often feel isolated," she said, noting that she, too, has started a couple of businesses. "This is the type of facility that will help turn their dreams into reality."

She said Wisconsin is running about 12 percent ahead of last year in new business startups.

"This is real," she said. "This is job creation."

More information

To learn about space for lease in the Janesville Innovation Center at 2949 Venture Drive, contact Vic Grassman at (608) 755-3181 or grassmanv@ci.Janesville.wi.us.

Last updated: 8:10 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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