Northeast Alabama Entrepreneurial System
Seminole Technology Business Incubation Center Technology Enterprise Center
Florida/NASA Business Incubation Center
The pictures above represent a few of the many business incubator projects with which GCGI has had the pleasure of working. Some are urban, some are suburban, some are rural. Some are for high tech, some for mixed-use, some for minority entrepreneurs. All are commendable local attempts to help local entrepreneurs start, grow and prosper, adding both wealth and jobs to their communities.
Sometimes called Innovation Centers, Accelerators or Technology Centers (but never a chicken coop for businesses), incubators are a powerful economic development tool that can improve the success rate and growth of start-up, small, and even downsizing existing companies. Simply defined, an incubator is a set of services, programs, and facilities that collectively provide a supportive environment in which businesses can grow and prosper. There are almost 1500 incubators throughout the United States, with a new one opening weekly on average. However, about one incubator fails each month, suggesting that incubators have to be structured and operated appropriately to thrive and serve long term as an economic development tool.
We started in the incubator business in 1984, when we hosted the First National Incubator Conference (while we were employed at the Los Alamos Economic Development Corporation, LAEDC). We were part of the LAEDC's formation of one of the first incubators in the Southwest US in 1985, and managed first one and later two LAEDC mixed use incubators for 11 years. Along the way, we became acknowledged experts in incubators, as demonstrated by Jim's election to the National Business Incubator Association (NBIA) board of directors, and our ongoing role in creating and teaching NBIA courses and conference sessions for incubators developers and managers.
Partially out of our desire to work with other incubators (and because it would be hard to manage a New Mexico incubator from our new home in southwest Florida!), we separated from the LAEDC and expanded our incubator training and consulting role. We've now conducted almost 100 projects from Alaska to Florida (and Canada), including feasibility studies, business plans, design critiques, and reviews of operating incubators.
If you are looking for someone to consult with you on an incubator project, GCGI would like to be considered! The following are samples of the types of projects we perform for clients who are exploring setting up a new incubator, as well as those who want to optimize the performance of an existing incubator:
a. Feasibility Studies. Like other consultants, GCGI performs assessments of whether or not an incubator will work in a particular community or area. Unlike other consultants, GCGI uses its proprietary model that makes it easier to identify a community's strengths and weaknesses in terms of supporting a successful incubator. We've performed over 60 feasibility studies for technology and mixed-use incubators and incubator networks.
b. Business Plans. If a feasibility study says an incubator will succeed in a community, you will need to draw a "road map" ofhow to get from here to the point that you have an operating incubator. GCGI provides thorough business plans for our clientele that include important factors such as marketing plans, tenant entrance and exit criteria, financial projections, and job descriptions for the incubator manager and support staff. Because we've managed incubators, you will get practical and proven guidance here.
c. Concepts Plans. Sometimes a client wants to know the pros and cons (including financial viability) of several different incubator scenarios that differ by location, size, market focus, or governance. GCGI can prepare concept plans that describe several alternative scenarios, andthen offer an analysis of those alternatives. We also can ask community leaders to "vote" for their favorite scenario so that the level of political and business support for a particular incubator scenario can be gauged.
d. Design Critiques. Okay, so the architect has drawn a floor plan for the incubator, but is it a good one? How well does it utilize the space, and is it conducive to tenant interaction? Will it cause you headaches because it is difficult to secure, mixes incompatible uses, or is "maintenance intensive?" Or maybe the architect hasn't started yet, and you just want to develop a list of criteria or guidelines to give to him or her before they do. GCGI can help.
e. Assessment of Operating Incubators. If you already have an incubator but aren't sure it is doing as well as it might, GCGI would be pleased to perform an operational assessment and make recommendations for any changes or improvements that we think would make your incubator more successful. We can, for example, compare your incubator with the incubator industry's "best practices" as identified by the NBIA, and recommend how your operations could be improved.
f. Other. We get all sorts of special requests from incubator managers and developers. One was a non-profit organization that wanted a second opinion on an incubator feasibility study and business plan provided by a nearby university. Another wanted us to brainstorm about ownership options for a new incubator. Another wanted suggested compensation (salary & benefits) for its manager. And we always hear from folks who want advice in working with a board of directors.
If you have a special need, just ask us - we'll give you an honest assessment of what you need and whether we (or someone else) might be the best source of help. If you want to discuss an incubator consulting project with us, please e-mail us at email@example.com, or call 239-395-9446. If you would like to send us an RFP for an incubator project, please fax it to 239-395-9446, mail it to the address above, or attach it to an e-mail. if you would like a free copy of our brochure "Developing a Partnership with a Consultant on Your Incubator Project", or a flyer that describes our quantitative incubator feasibility methodology, just e-mail us
GCGI has been involved in incubator education since our days with LAEDC when we put together that first national incubator conference in 1984. Since then, we've been involved in a variety of training activities, primarily sponsored by the Incubator Industry's trade association, the National Business Incubation Association. (NBIA).
1. Fall Training Institutes (FTIs). Originally called the Regional Training Institutes, these are annual, three day intensive training events sponsored by the NBIA. GCGI was part of the initial team of industry leaders who developed and taught the FTI's. First,, we co-taught "Module 1" of the FTI, designed for those who are developing (or at least pondering) their first incubator. Next, GCGI co-developed and offered a new "Module 2", which is a very interactive workshop for experienced incubator managers and others interested in incubator management issues. More recently, GCGI has offered FTI workshops on "Rural/Small Town Incubator Feasibility Analysis", and "Self Assessment of Your Incubator". For more information about the FTI, check the NBIA website at http://nbia.org/.
2. Annual NBIA Conference. Like the title implies, it's the big conference that NBIA puts on each spring. GCGI has been a speaker at every NBIA annual conference since 1989 (except in 2015 when we were on foreign travel), including co-teaching a pre-conference session on incubator feasibility analysis. Our presentations have focused on leases, tenant relations, boards of directors, cash flow projections, creative revenue sources, feasibility studies, financial sustainability, and (of course) the SBIR/STTR programs. Again, for more info on the annual conference, check the NBIA website at http://nbia.org/.
3. Special Events. GCGI is a strong believer in the economic and community development value of a well-organized and executed incubator program. We also believe that incubators are not a panacea for every economic woeof a community or region. Because of this balanced perspective, we have been asked to make incubator overview presentations to interested groups and have helped clients develop and refine their own presentations. Many of our consulting projects have included community presentations regardinga proposed incubator, and we have spoken to city and county commissions about incubators that they are funding. We are interested in speaking with you about your special event -- give us a holler at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you're thinking about.
4. Documents: Of course, it's possible to learn from literature as well as workshop and conferences. GCGI offers several documents that we'd be happy to send to you upon your request:
a. Some Advice on Partnering with a Consultant on Your Incubator Project
b. A Quantitative Approach to the Feasibility Assessment of a Business Incubator
c. 25 Creative Ways to Generate Revenue in an Incubator
d. Common Mistakes In Incubator Feasibility Studies
In 2014, NBIA contracted with us to write a white paper on incubator feasibility studies. To view and print, click HERE.
We also have contributed to a number of publications by NBIA that can be ordered on line at http://nbia.org/.
STATE INCUBATOR ASSOCIATIONS
Florida Business Incubation Association
We are founding members of FBIA, and serve on its advisory board. FBIA awarded us "Incubator Advocate of the Year" in 2013 for our contributions to the incubator industry. For more information about FBIA, go to www.fbiaonline.org.
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