Group seeking funds for business incubator

Bob Schultz with The Effingham Regional Incubator Network and Effingham County Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Norma Lansing speak to the Effingham City Council on Tuesday. Dawn Schabbing photo

EFFINGHAM — Effingham City Council was asked Tuesday to contribute funds for a business incubator in downtown Effingham.

Mark Mayhood with The Regional Growth Alliance, Bob Schultz with The Effingham Regional Incubator Network or ERIN and Effingham County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Norma Lansing addressed the council about the project.

Effingham Economic Director Todd Hull said the group wants to relocate an incubator to the downtown area at 109 West Jefferson. The group is asking for $15,000 to rehabilitate the space.

“The Incubator Network was created about eight years ago and it was public-private partnerships to provide areas in the region for start-up businesses or small businesses operating out of their home to relocate to some place a little more professional,” said Schultz.

It has worked with other communities, Teutopolis, Newton and Dieterich, in the past.

“We’ve never had to go out (and ask) for any money before, until now, and that is because of a new opportunity to create a shared workspace,” said Schultz. “An incubator is a place for a business to go and hopefully grow from there. But a shared workspace would be more appropriate for an individual or an entity that is looking for a professional area to use in a cooperative manner, maybe just for a few hours a day, but not a private office.”

Schultz said the space could be a more open environment that allows them to collaborate with others using that same space. He said there is a growing demand for this type of flexible workspace and it is expected that by 2030 this type of office space will account for 30 percent of all office space in the U.S.

Lansing said there are examples of this concept in larger cities like Champaign, but they expect to keep things on a smaller scale.

She said there have been some round-table discussions held on the topic and a central location, downtown, is what is becoming appealing to small business owners today. Those wanting to use the space would become a member first.

“They can become members of this incubator and come and go as they please,” said Lansing. “This opportunity downtown came about a couple months ago. We are guaranteeing the owners six months rent of that space.”

Lansing said the Chamber of Commerce will help provide new business owners great space, with mentoring and other solid programs, in order to help them be successful in starting their business. She said the location will bring people together who want to grow their business or buy a business or for someone who wants help creating a business plan.

The concept is to share space, thereby reducing costs for business owners, said Hull.

The matter will be voted at the next City Council meeting at 5 p.m. Aug. 20, at City Hall.

In other business, the council agreed to move forward on a block grant for housing. Public Works Director Jeremy Heuerman explained the city has received good interest from potential applicants for a Community Development Block Grant with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Heuerman said the grant would be for housing improvements in a certain area of the city, which meet the low-to-moderate-income level. If the city is awarded the $500,000 grant, it would bring homes up to code for up to $50,000 per structure. It is estimated at least nine homes would be rehabilitated with roof work, new windows, plumbing, siding, doors, insulation and/or electrical work.

“One hundred percent of the funds would go toward rehabilitating those low-to-moderate-income household improvements,” said Heuerman. “We do believe our success rate will be much better with the larger census tract and our application will be stronger with the attendance at our public hearing.”

A public hearing was held prior to Tuesday's meeting.

The area is in the central-southern part of Effingham. The city is working with Coles County Regional Planning Executive Director Kelly Lockhart on the application,

“If we were awarded the grant, there would be an additional application each homeowner who qualifies would have to fill out,” said Heuerman. “Kelly and his team would review those applications and base each applicant on the need, age, disability and things like that.”

The city must commit to $10,000 in funds, if the grant is awarded.

“We will know later this year if we’ve gotten the grant or not and then we can get started,” said Lockhart.

In other matters, the City Council:

• Reported it will list two former police cars for sale, a 2011 and a 2013 Chevy Impala.

• Accepted a bid from Kinney Contractors in Raymond for 2019 Pavement Patching Program, $159,428.

• Agreed to add street lighting on the south side of Ford Avenue during the street reconstruction project. The additional cost of the lighting will be $114,016.

• Heard a request for street closure of South Banker from Jefferson to Section avenues and North Banker from Jefferson to Washington avenues, from noon to midnight, Sept. 7, for Village Wine Block Party fundraiser for Operation Blackhawk.

• Heard a request for, but did not act on, the location of Fourth Street, between Jefferson and Washington avenues to be temporarily closed for the Effingham County Old Settlers Reunion on Sept. 28.

• Heard a pre-bid meeting for Fire Station 2 facility improvements will be held at 10 a.m. Aug. 15 at 500 West Jaycee Avenue. The bid letting will be held at City Hall at 10 a.m. Aug. 27.

Contact Dawn Schabbing at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext. 138