Officials with a new business incubator at GateWay Community College in central Phoenix say they hope to add nearly 500 jobs to the area within the next few years.
To accomplish that goal, they know they must carefully select businesses and startups with potential to grow and excel.
The Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation has 35 spaces available, but only two businesses have completed the center’s rigorous application process. The facility, which cost about $6 million to build, seeks to house and develop early-stage companies focused on biotechnology, clean technology, renewable energy, technology and software, and professional services.
“We provide a phenomenal amount of entrepreneurship service,” Executive Director Jeff Saville said. “All entrepreneurs see something shiny, and they will chase that for a while, but it’s our job to make sure they are staying focused.”
Phoenix has in interest in the development. The city contributed about $800,000 to the project — using 2006 voter-approved bond money — and it also helped leverage a $2 million grant from the Economic Development Administration, according to John Chan, Phoenix’s community and economic development director.
Chan said the city has targeted bio-life sciences and “young emerging enterprises” as industry sectors to focus on: “These sectors attract high-quality jobs and have high-growth potential.”
The Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation staff and mentors work closely with each of the budding businesses, both residential and affiliate. So far, only Voltmarc Technology Inc., a circuit tracing and monitoring research and development company, and Arbsource, a biotechnology company, have successfully signed on. An advisory board must approve all participating companies. Saville said they have about six more companies in the “pre-incubation queue.”
“I take pride in CEI being an incubator that advertises a high degree of selectivity,” Arbsource founder and CEO Mark Sholin said. “Resident companies have to have not only an excellent business model but also a strong network and sufficient financial traction to be able to support habitation at CEI.”
Arbsource, which deals with waste-water treatment in the food and beverage industry, was founded in August of last year. The company took up residence in the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation in July, after leaving SkySong, the Arizona State University Scottsdale Innovation Center.Sholin decided the company had enough money to branch out and find a larger space with new networking opportunities.
“We went in with an open mind and had high expectations,” he said of the GateWay project. “CEI has the perfect mix of office space, lab facilities, mentoring, and business-development resources to complement what we have built so far with Arbsource.”
Along with its 35 spaces, the center offers the resources of 85 mentors whose clients, both residential and affiliate, can utilize, according to marketing assistant Monique Jones.
“We lean heavily on our mentors to really help us manage the clients and help the clients,” Saville said. Mentors dish advice and provide support in areas such as human resources, accounting, public relations, social media and day-to-day activities.
The center also provides furnished offices, eight equipped wet labs, shared conference rooms and break room, and equipment needed for day-to-day office activities.
Although companies lease the space on a year-to-year basis, the incubation program takes from two to five years.
Despite Arbsource leaving SkySong for the Phoenix-based project, Saville said the center collaborates with all incubators in the area. He called the relationship between the incubators a “neat ecosystem.”
The National Business Incubation Association estimates there are 7,000 business incubators in the world, and typically 87 percent of companies that graduate from such programs stay in business three years later.
“What we want to get out of this is opportunity to get in front of investors and to grow the business so that we can create jobs here in Arizona,” said Mark Mahoney,Voltmarc Technologies Inc. founder and inventor. “This is a huge asset to our business, it really is.”
Saville said the center pursues companies that have a business plan that can produce jobs, and helps foster companies that are not yet ready to join the program. Saville’s goal is to add 500 jobs to the Phoenix community in three to five years, but he has 10 years to accomplish that goal.
As the center grows, Saville said the GateWay Community College campus, near 40th and Washington streets, and surrounding area will become a hub for entrepreneurial activity.
The center had a small-scale opening in October and began accepting applications in March. Jones said they will host a grand opening in the spring, following the completion of the remaining construction in December.
“I’m just amazed at the opportunities out here,” Saville said. “I’m meeting some of the best startup companies I’ve seen in a long time.”
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/2012/08/16/20120816phoenix-gateway-incubator-business-growing-jobs.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter#ixzz24HWMwH1I