Maine Voices: Incubation process maximizes odds that new small businesses will survive, thrive

By Steve Levesque, Executive Director, Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority

BRUNSWICK — I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference in San Francisco where the focus was on how to support entrepreneurial development on closed military installations.

Many of the speakers (public and private) hailed from the Silicon Valley area, and spoke at length about the need to support small-business innovation and growth as a major part of an effective economic development strategy.
There is no question that the Silicon Valley is one of the world leaders in business growth and the collisions of innovations that have occurred in that region have transformed our world.

One of the common themes presented at the conference was the critical importance of “on the ground” business incubators and accelerators to the success of small-business survival and growth.

According to Steven Yu, CEO of Stand Desk, nearly 62 percent of all small businesses fail within their first five years.

INCUBATION PROCESS

Conversely, businesses that have gone through an incubation process have an 89 percent survival rate. We also took the opportunity to tour a “Tech Shop,” where entrepreneurs develop their innovative businesses in collaborative and supporting environments and are building the technology companies of tomorrow.

This was all very encouraging and exciting to us at the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, because this is precisely what we are creating at Brunswick Landing (the former Brunswick Naval Air Station).

We are transforming a 93,000-square-foot former aviation maintenance facility into TechPlace, a state-of-the-art business incubator and technology accelerator that will support the business development needs of early-stage companies in a shared and collaborative workspace.

TechPlace will provide entrepreneurs in the sectors of advanced materials, aerospace, biotechnology, renewable energy and information technology a place to network with others. They will have space with room to do research and develop ideas, build prototypes, test products and become successful manufacturing and technology companies.

At TechPlace, which opens in January, we will offer shared office, manufacturing and shop spaces, shared conference rooms, printer and copier services, Wi-Fi, kitchen facilities and warehousing and assembly spaces.

We also plan to hold regular seminars and training sessions on topics such as business planning, financing, marketing and protecting intellectual property, that are applicable to early stage companies.

COMMITMENTS IN PLACE

We already have commitments from a number of entities that will be available to early-stage companies to assist them in their development. Portland law firm Drummond Woodsum will staff an office on site to provide legal services on patents, IP protection, business law, etc.

The Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership will have office space at TechPlace to work with businesses on manufacturing processes, plant layout and supply chain management. And Coastal Counties Workforce Inc. will offer specific job training programs to support entrepreneurial development.

A number of other key partners are committed to help make TechPlace a success, including the U.S. Small Business Administration, Small Business Development Center, SCORE, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, the town of Brunswick, Southern Maine Community College, the Maine Composites Alliance, the University of Maine – Advanced Technology Center and the Maine Manufacturers Association, to name several.

We firmly believe that TechPlace provides the correct recipe to help grow much-needed innovative companies and new technology jobs in Maine.

During the early planning of TechPlace, we connected with a number of other technology-oriented incubators that are great examples of successful facilities and offer many of the programing and support infrastructure that we aim to offer at TechPlace.

We have visited Greentown Labs in Cambridge, a Tech Shop in San Francisco and had several conversations with the folks at MassChallenge about best practices.

ON THE CUTTING EDGE

The TechPlace initiative at Brunswick Landing clearly demonstrates that MRRA is staying on the cutting edge of business development and continues to be a leader in growing Maine’s innovation economy.

For business inquiries and TechPlace membership, please contact Kristine Schuman at kristines@mrra.us, 207-798-6512, or visit the website at techplacemaine.us.

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