A new “innovation center” for entrepreneurs and small business owners is unofficially open in Bradenton.
Collaborative coworking, along with an incubation program to provide formal education and mentoring for client companies, is the focus of the space. The Innovation Center will also house a cafe, training areas, open workspaces, and several dedicated workstations for regular visitors. Offices for incubator clients are currently being built out.
The space may be rebranded from Bradenton Innovation Center in the future, but “we know that the name of the incubator lies in the history of the firehouse and area of town we're located in -- the historic Village of Manatee, now part of the City of Bradenton,” explains cofounder Stan Schulte.
Bike racks, lockers, mail facilities and free parking in a historic downtown setting round out the amenities that will be offered to community members.
Fundraising and architectural renovations are currently underway. Applications for client companies will be accepted in late fall 2014, and programs should begin in early 2015.
Currently, meetings are being held with community supporters and potential partners for the Bradenton Innovation Center, says Schulte.
The incubator will be organized as a 501(c)3, Schulte explains. “The building is city-owned, and support will come from both the city and county,” he says. “Grants and sponsorships will be utilized for build-out and programs, but the majority of sustainable funding will come from coworking memberships, office rentals and incubator program fees.“
In order to qualify for the incubator program, companies will have to complete an application process along with a prerequisite 4-week Excellence in Entrepreneurship course.
They will be evaluated quarterly for suitability to the program based on growth and meeting plan objectives, says Schulte. Mentors and partner businesses in the community will also have to apply.
Goals of the incubator include creating “sustainable, knowledge-based, high wage jobs that will stay in the local area, and to help to mitigate the “brain drain” from local universities & companies,” says Schulte.
The programs at the Innovation center will be geared toward companies that have already launched and are seeking sustainable, rapid expansion.
“There will not initially be any lab or industrial space available, so it will be most suitable to knowledge-based companies not needing specialized facilities,” says Schulte.
“It will serve as a catalyst for development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem for creation of new companies in high-growth strategic industry sectors,” he explains.
“Communities today need innovative companies and strong entrepreneurial networks to link and leverage assets to boost productivity and convert 21st Century brainpower into wealth through innovation.”
Schulte and Sara Hand, founder of SP Hand and Associates, are cofounders of Spark Growth in Sarasota and jointly back the BIC project.
The Bradenton Innovation Center is located at 912 7th Ave. E. Photos of progress can be found on the center’s Facebook page
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Stan Schulte, Bradenton Innovation Center