The city agreed to put aside space in the new city hall and help business owners get to the next level. The city also is looking at places where these incubator grads can eventually set up shop.
BOYNTON BEACH – If the world’s next multibillion-dollar startup — think Apple or Amazon — is being created inside the garage of a Boynton Beach home, the city has plans to help.
During its Sept. 5 meeting, the city commission approved a proposal to donate 2,000 square feet in the new city hall for a “business incubator” that’s designed to assist local entrepreneurs in getting their fledgling companies up and running.
While key details have yet to be worked out — including who will operate the incubator — the general idea is to provide local small business owners with a wide range of services, such as legal advice, marketing strategies, business plan development, in a shared space.
One way the incubator might work, city officials say, is for participants to apply for positions and “graduate” from the program after their businesses grow to a point where they need to hire additional employees to continue operations.
“We understand that local small businesses are a driver in our economy,” said David Scott, director of economic development and strategy. “Locals hire locals, whether they’re family members, kids in the neighborhood or other residents and, when that happens, the city thrives.”
Aim is to help business owners get to the next level
The city already has grant programs to assist existing businesses, but the incubator is geared for, say, the baker whose cupcake orders are getting too big for a residential kitchen.
At the incubator, that baker might share a commercial kitchen with others, while gaining insight that will allow that business, in Scott’s words, to “get to the next level.”
Scott foresees the incubator supporting 15 to 25 business owners at one time, although such details won’t be decided until the operator is selected. Those business owners selected for the program would likely pay a “nominal” fee to participate, Scott said.
The city is leaning toward selecting an academic institution to run the incubator and some conversations with Palm Beach State College officials have taken place, Scott said. South Tech Academy has also expressed interest.
The prototype for Boynton Beach’s incubator is UCF Business Incubation Program that began in 1999. According to its website, the UCF program has worked with 350 businesses responsible for 6,725 jobs and more than $1.6 billion in economic output.
City looking for spaces where incubator grads can set up shop
The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that only 44 percent of small businesses continue to operate after four years. But the National Business Incubation Association states that nearly 90 percent of incubated companies are still in business five years after graduating from its affiliated programs.
City officials are already speaking to the Community Redevelopment Agency to identify commercial spaces where its incubator graduates can set up shop in a fixed location.
“Hopefully we can find them a spot in Boynton Beach because we want to keep them here,” said John Durgan, the city’s economic development specialist.
Consideration was given to two other potential uses for the first-floor area assigned to the incubator. A co-working space, set up to provide below-market-value offices, and a maker space, which allows participants to share high-tech equipment like 3D printers, were investigated by city staffers, but it was the business incubator they recommended the commission adopt.
Commissioners unanimously agreed. The incubator is set to begin operations when city hall opens.
“We thought, ’How cool would it be if we could help our small businesses right there at city hall,” Durgan said. “It’s the city telling our business community, ’We see you, we recognize you and we’re here to support you because if you succeed, we succeed.”