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New businesses, jobs get boost
Incubator for downtown Binghamton on track with Broome, federal, state aid. Wanted: At least five or six entrepreneurs looking to get out of the basement or garage.
Wanted: At least five or six entrepreneurs looking to get out of the basement or garage. Will offer affordable office space with Internet and other high-tech necessities in the heart of downtown Binghamton. Must be willing to relocate by early February or March. Slackers need not apply.
Broome County's newest incubator project at 123 Court St. is seeking applicants willing to grow high-tech jobs and careers, Broome County Executive Barbara J. Fiala said.
"Our goal is to provide affordable space in a supportive environment," Fiala said Tuesday during a tour of the proposed Greater Binghamton Innovation Center. "We cannot rely on companies moving into our community and bringing lots of jobs. We need to grow our own jobs."
The Court Street building on Tuesday's tour didn't feel like an incubator. Vacant for years, the building lacks a heating system. But that's expected to change soon. The building is in the midst of renovations funded with a $250,000 federal grant from U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, both D-N.Y.
An additional $250,000 secured by state Sen. Thomas W. Libous, R-Binghamton, from state Senate economic development funds will pay for furnishings and go toward initially keeping rental costs down, Libous said Tuesday.
"The county executive convinced me this project is something we really need," Libous said. "It's going to bring in and create new opportunities and new careers."
Both Fiala and Libous praised Court St. Redevelopment, a group of private businesses -- including longtime downtown Court Street stalwarts Security Mutual and the Hinman, Howard & Kattell law firm -- which banded together with other private concerns to help rescue their neighborhood from further economic erosion.
The group owns the building and will lease it to the county for at least three years, Fiala said.
Fiala, a Democrat, has pushed for development of a business incubator since taking office in 2005. This is not the county's first attempt to develop new businesses in an incubator. County leaders started an incubator in Johnson City 24 years ago, which was later purchased by a robotics business -- one of its tenants.
A decade later, funds, including a $1.5 million federal grant, were collected in the mid-1990s for a similar project in downtown Binghamton's Kilmer Building. But that 1990s project, under different county leadership, apparently never got off the ground.
"I can't speak for what happened then," said Darcy Fauci, Fiala's director of economic development. But Fauci believes that this latest project's combination of private business, local, state and federal money and support, combined with a careful selection process, will contribute substantially to the project's success.
Successful incubator projects rely on affordable rents and useful services like low-interest loans for small businesses and mentoring, said Ray Gillen, Schenectady County's director of economic development. Schenectady County's 10-year-old incubator has rented out all but 900 square feet of its 25,000-square-foot facility, Gillen said.
Currently, 15 businesses rent space in Schenectady's incubator, which is housed in a newer building, Gillen said. But old or new buildings don't have an effect on the project's success.
"You can make good use of these projects in an older building like Binghamton's," Gillen said.
Broome County and the Greater Binghamton Coalition, a local group dedicated to economic development, partnered on the incubator project. Both are soliciting applications from prospective tenants for the incubator. Applications can be downloaded from www.GreaterBinghamton.com or www.goBroomeCounty.com.
The applications will be reviewed by the Greater Binghamton Project Management Team, which represents most of the local economic development agencies and educational institutions, county officials said.
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