published Friday, December 9th, 2011

Chattanooga's small-business incubator enters new era

Richard Carmack, left, shows Richard McGinnis tomahawks Thursday during an open house at the Hamilton County Business Development Center.
Richard Carmack, left, shows Richard McGinnis tomahawks Thursday during an open house at the Hamilton County Business Development Center.
Photo by Angela Lewis.


Funding sources:

• Hamilton County: $2 million

• U.S. Economic Development Administration: $1.5 million

• U.S. Housing and Urban Development: $1.37 million

Source: Chamber

Chattanooga’s small-business incubator, with upgrades such as EPB’s ultra-fast Internet and a modern telephone system, will attract more technology companies, officials said Thursday.

The state’s biggest business incubator and the third largest in the country is ready for a new era after a major revamp, said Kathryn Foster, who directs the facility for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce

“It has always had good bones,” she said about the 90-year-old Cherokee Boulevard building that received the nearly $5 million refurbishing.

The Hamilton County Business Development Center opened in 1988 after holding the 3M Co. for many years.

New windows, an upgraded roof, air conditioning in the manufacturing parts of the structure and an upgrade in technology were included in the work that began over a year ago.

Over that time, the Business Development Center wasn’t able to recruit new businesses and now is a little more than half full with about 35 companies, Foster said.

She predicted the 125,000-square-foot facility soon will be filled up and have a waiting list as it typically has since it began serving as an incubator for start-ups in 1988.

Business people in the center said they can see the difference.

Richard Carmack Jr., owner of tomahawk maker RMJ Tactical LLC, said his manufacturing facilities now have air conditioning.

“It’s fabulous,” he said.

Mark Quering of technology services company Up:time said his wife worked in the building in the 1990s and was “blown away” by the changes.

He especially cited access to conference rooms at the facility. It now boasts a 3,000-square-foot technology conference center, which officials said may be the best part of the rework.

The center offers below market rate space as well as access to seminars, help with business plans, accounting setup services and counselors.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the money to upgrade the facility was well spent.

Coppinger said the companies don’t just operate in the incubator but graduate outside the facility and employ more people.

Since 1988, the facility has hosted more than 500 companies. According to the Chamber, more than 90 percent of graduate firms are still in business after five years compared to about half that figure nationally.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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timbo said...

More picking of the winners and losers by government political hacks. It is just plain wrong and unconstitutional to use tax payer dollars to help a select group of companies to be successful while the other "losers" pay the bill.

I am sure the strutting politicians and the businesses that benefit from this stuff, who probably don't have the ability or smarts to make it on their own, think this all is peachy keen.

Volkswagen was the largest incentive package for an auto plant in history. The financial resources our politicians turned over to them chornicaled in the "Memorandum of Agreement" between the state county, and city (It can be found on the internet)is mind boggling and guess who pays the bill. The thousands of small businesses that survive on their own, don't deserve to have this extra tax burden to send money to Germany.

This problem is finally getting some national attention since the Solyndra scandal. I hear some national republican senators and representatives finally using the term "winners and losers." Where are our local conservatives and why have they allowed this practice to continue? Answer: Because they are corrupt too.

Small business should revolt by just telling this sick government that we will only pay the same rate as Volkswagen does. We will pay the "school tax" portion, what ever that is, just like the VW leach does.
Wonder how long the county could stay in business if we did that?

December 9, 2011 at 11:11 a.m.
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