Many of today’s locally owned businesses in the Effingham area were started in humble abodes, such as garages, basements and even car trunks.
But a group of growth-minded people want to make it easier for the next generation of entrepreneurs to establish itself through the concept of business incubators.
Bob Schultz, a board member of the Effingham County Incubation Network, told a group of local business leaders about the incubation endeavor at the monthly First Friday luncheon at Thelma Keller Convention Center in Effingham..
Schultz said an incubation process — in which budding business owners have a maximum of two years to establish themselves before finding their own base — will help generate the creation of locally owned businesses. He said businesses in which ownership has a stake in the local community are far more likely to maintain a local presence in tough economic times.
“Look at all the companies that have left the area, such as Fedders, World Color Press, and Yellow Freight,” he said. “They weren’t locally owned.”
The incubation group is developing vacant office space throughout the county to provide a base for new businesses.
In Effingham, there’s the basement of the former Ameren building on North Third Street. The rest of that building has become the corporate home of First National Bank of Dieterich.
Other incubation sites are at the former Wholesale Building on Fourth Street in downtown Altamont and vacant office space at the EJ Water complex in Dieterich.
Schultz said Newton wants to ride the incubation bandwagon, as well. Mayor Mark Bolander has already approached Schultz’ group about developing incubation sites in downtown Newton.
While the incubation boom of the 1980s focused on giving new businesses access to then-expensive technology, today’s incubation projects focus more on putting entrepreneurs in touch with other new businesspeople.
“Incubation isn’t so important in a technological sense, as it is in a collaborative sense,” Schultz said. In fact, the group’s mission statement is “Incubate, collaborate, celebrate and navigate.”
“We want to make sure these businesses interact with each other,” Schultz said.
The incubation group will charge a minimal rent based on each client’s needs, with a two-year maximum stay in the incubator.
“We don’t want them to have long-term space,” Schultz said.
Prospective entrepreneurs can apply for inclusion in the incubation program through the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce. Schultz said the application process is fairly straightforward.
“We made it as easy and efficient as we could,” he said.
After a business has occupied the space, the incubation board will require each client to provide a quarterly progress report.
Bill Grimes may be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @EDNBGrimes.