The Ottumwa Courier

December 13, 2012

Want more jobs? Grow them here

Supervisors get timeline for incubator

MARK NEWMAN
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — The Wapello County Board of Supervisors say they’re just one of the groups throwing support behind a building that helps new businesses begin.

“We have a lot of local students that go to Indian Hills [Community College] and graduate in robotics, laser optics and computer programing,” said Supervisor Steve Siegel. “But there’s very few jobs in Wapello County, or even Iowa, in those fields. So we train all these young people — and they leave to get a job.”

The hope is some of them have a good business idea but not the funds to get it started. That could be the difference between just dreaming of starting a business or actually doing it.

Siegel said there are always efforts by local entities to draw in new business, including those that would appreciate potential employees with high-tech skills. Yet it’s the growth of local business that tends to provide employment opportunities, he agreed, not the sudden influx of huge manufacturers.

The incubator building, which will be constructed near the Ottumwa Regional Airport on the Indian Hills North Campus, will have easy access to services from Iowa Workforce Development. The fledgling businesses — the building can hold up to four — will have subsidized rent, utilities and maintenance. A committee will go over applications and determine the most viable candidates from the 10-county area.

“The incubator is to assist you at the beginning of your business, just like an incubator for chicks, it helps support you from your birth,” Siegel said. “Then when you grow, you move out and another business moves in.”

At the supervisors’ board meeting this week, representatives from the college updated the supervisors on the progress of the Incubator.

“We have a tentative time frame,” said IHCC President Jim Lindenmayer. “We hope to break ground on that in March of 2013 after a public bidding process and have it finished in the fall.”

Indian Hills is spearheading the project, but they aren’t doing it alone.

“To me, one of the most important parts of this was the partnerships,” said Lindenmayer, “because no single one of us had the resources do to this alone. That’s an example of how a partnership can leverage resources to be successful.”

Siegel said the county kicked in $50,000 as an investment in the county’s future. The local Rotary club gave a big check, as did IHCC and the U.S. Economic Development Agency. And the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation made it’s largest grant to date: $350,000.

“We could not have thought of a better first big grant,” said Brad Little, president and CEO of the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation during an earlier interview with the Courier. “How can we get Ottumwa back as a thriving, growing, prospering community? With the economy the way it is, it’s through entrepreneurism and getting good jobs in the community.”

As the foundation reviewed Indian Hills’ grant application, they researched how business incubators have fared across the country.

“If we go to surrounding communities that have something like this incubator under way ... the success rate of companies that have been incubated is extremely high,” Little said. “And what’s more impressive is the number of those that choose to stay in the area, which is encouraging for us.”