Incubator set to help small businesses
Janesvillle Innovation Center
Size: 22,000 square feet
Opens for business: Jan. 1
Capacity: About 17,600 square feet of manufacturing space, 2,000 square feet of office space and about 2,300 square feet of conference,kitchen and common areas.That’s enough space for 40 to 50 people in about nine offices and four production bays with loading docks, although those spaces would be flexible. Each space has its own entrance.
Rent: From $225 to $425 a month.
Dates of note: Ribbon cutting, 4 p.m.Thursday, Dec. 20. Host of Business after Five on Thursday, Jan. 17.
Still needed: Used office furniture
For more information: Call Vic Grassman, the city’s director of economic development, at 608-755-3181 or email him at grassmanv@ci.Janesville.wi.us .
JANESVILLE Biotech company Virent, now thriving in a 72,000-square-foot facility, got its start in a 600-square-foot cubicle at a Madison business incubator.
NeuWave Medical started with office space in the same Madison incubator with a handful of engineers. It, too, has moved out and employs about 35.
The people who started Sologear, a company that makes ethanol-based fuel for grilling, started in the Madison incubator, as well, and grew into a space of 30,000 square feet. The company later sold the technology to BIC.
Mike Mathews, president of Economic Growth Advisors of Middleton and Janesville’s consultant for its new incubator, spoke about the Madison success stories when asked about the future of the Janesville Innovation Center , which is set to open in January.
The Janesville building features natural light, a good location and lots of parking on the city’s south side near Interstate 90/39. It provides flexible office and manufacturing space.
Its goal is to help launch new businesses, said Vic Grassman, the city’s director of economic development. Companies that leave incubators tend to stay in the areas where they grew, Mathews said. That’s where the companies typically have their work forces and supplies.
The Janesville center at 2949 Venture Drive includes both manufacturing and office space. Outside of Madison, Janesville is the only incubator in the area to have both, Grassman said.
At capacity, the building could hold between 40 to 50 people and 13 to 14 companies, Mathews estimated.
Tenants would be companies interested in expanding.
Mathews and Grassman are heartened by having gotten nine inquiries and five prospects even though the city has not yet marketed the building.
“That’s a good indication there’s really some things happening,” Mathews said. “People are working out of their homes and are interested in growing their business.
“This kind of space is desired and valued.”
Tenants will pay market rate for space, about $10 to $12 per square foot, with totals ranging from $225 to $425 per month.
Advantages of the center include flexible leases—either side can opt out in 60 days—and flexible space. If a company grows, it can easily move into more space. If it has a setback, it can scale back.
“We understand how small businesses work,” Mathews said. “Not all growth is lineal.”
The space gives a business a professional address and setting.
Technical assistance will also be available. The center’s board includes representatives from area educational institutions. They plan to meet with tenants to help them understand opportunities and challenges and connect them with resources, Mathews said.
The environment is intended to creates synergies, Grassman said. The business tenants might be different from each other but be in similar stages of development and dealing with similar issues.
Some prospective tenants have included a graphics design firm, a construction-related industry, a firm with intellectual property and an online distribution company. One is a Whitewater incuba tor tenant with a musicrelated product trying to get funding to start manuf a c t u r i n g , G r a s s m a n said.
“We don’t have a lot of space here, but we have enough to nurture early stage companies and assist them in their growth,” he said. “Our hope and expectation is they would continue to grow outside the space and, as they leave, make space for another company to come in.
“We feel good about what we’re able to offer,” Grassman said.
Potential tenants could include:
Startups working out of their homes but needing formal business addresses.
Existing companies that don’t have space in their own facilities to test or experiment with a new manufacturing process or production line.
Companies coming to town that do not yet have buildings but need office space.
The city built the center with a $1.2 million federal grant awarded in September 2010. It spent another $850,000 in TIF funds for a total cost of about $2.05 million.
The decision to spend the money was not without some controversy.
Some council members questioned why the incubator wasn’t built in an existing, vacant building. The greenfield site used was included in the original application by the city’s former economic development director and the federal government would not allow the city to change after the city received the grant, Grassman said.
The site also was discovered to have poor soil. The city’s engineers specified a building that could accommodate the soil, Grassman said.
Construction began in April.
The city owns the building and will rent to the nonprofit Janesville Innovation for $1 a year.
The city is responsible for the upkeep, the cost of which will be reimbursed by the nonprofit.
“We’re not here to complete with the private sector,” Grassman said. “We’re here to grow the tenants so they can go lease space in the private sector.”
The Janesville City Council on Monday, Dec. 10, will consider the following roster for the board of the Janesville Innovation Center: Thomas Eckert, Blackhawk Technical College. Denise Ehlen, UWWhitewater. Ronald Gayhart, UWWhitewater Center for Innovation and Business Development. Carmen Wilson, UWRock County. Brian Morello,Beloit College. John Beckord, Forward Janesville. James Otterstein, Rock County Planning and Development, Bruce Kepner,Alliant Energy. Andrew Janke, Greater Beloit Works. Steve Werner, Murphy Desmond lawyers. Jeffrey Kerston, Baker Tilly accounting and advisory firm. Barry Brandt, Lanair heaters and boilers. Jeffrey Helgesen,Helgesen Development. Mark Membrino, Hendricks Development. Eric Levitt, Janesville city manager. Vic Grassman,Janesville economic development director. AJanesville City Council member to be named.