MILTON

Nate Rogers was frustrated while looking for a place where he could relocate his small business from his dad’s garage more than 10 years ago.

“I had a tough time finding a spot. There was nothing really available when I started my business, and anything that was available was a huge payment that I just couldn’t afford,” Rogers said.

After finally finding a home for his business, Badger State Maintenance, on Gateway Drive in Milton, he decided to help other entrepreneurs avoid the same frustration.

Next to his business, Rogers built a business incubator called Gateway Property Investments, which will have enough space to accommodate more than 20 other businesses when it is complete.

The incubator started with seven buildings holding six 1,250-square-foot spaces and three 2,500-square-foot spaces. Leases start at $750 a month and increase based on size and needs.

“We’ve really got something for everybody,” Rogers said. “We’ve got heaters and air conditioners in some of the units, some are just heated, and others are just cold storage.”

Current tenants include Agrace Hospice & Palliative Care, a vintage motorcycle renovation hobbyist and a golf simulator creator.

Andy Elleson owns AE Heating and Air Conditioning, which also operates out of the Gateway property. He was working out of his garage before finding the incubator in January 2018.

“Being a small business, they had an affordable and usable space there for us. I don’t know what I would have done without it,” he said.

The Gateway project took off quickly. All the incubator spaces were spoken for before the first buildings were finished.

Rogers has added more buildings in a second phase of construction. Rogers expects phase two to be finished in the next 60 days. At that point, there will be space for 24 businesses in the incubator.

Some of the new space is designed for small businesses with just a few employees that don’t need office space, Rogers said. Leases can be month to month to encourage small businesses to give the building a try.

“Maybe they’re working out of their house, and they don’t know if this will work, but they can literally give us a month’s security deposit and try it out. If it’s not for them, that’s just fine, but maybe they find a home here,” Rogers said.

In addition, there is additional vacant land on the property for another structure if a tenant business wants to put up a building of its own.

Brian Tennant, the chief information officer for Agrace, said it was an easy decision to lease space at the incubator. Agrace stocks wheelchairs, hospital beds, oxygen tanks and other health products there.

After looking at other locations, being the incubator’s first tenant and having some flexibility there steered Agrace to the location, Tennant said.

“When we learned of this project ... we jumped on it,” he said. “This is really a place where we can maintain our inventory and dispatch people to do deliveries. I think it’s going to be a really good fit.”

The city of Milton thinks the incubator is a good fit, too.

“This is the private sector doing this to help other private sector businesses. It’s really ideal,” said Milton City Administrator Al Hulick.

For Hulick, the fact that Rogers is helping others after going through the hardship he experienced is a win for everyone.

“It’s success breeding success,” Hulick said. “He, like many of the businesses he is providing homes for, started in his parents’ garage and then moved up. It’s such a fantastic asset for us to have as a community.”

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