In the business incubation industry, Joe Mancuso is famous, and for good reason. In 1956, Massey-Ferguson, the largest industry in Batavia, N.Y., closed down, leaving vacant an 850,000 square foot complex of multistory buildings and driving unemployment to more than 20 percent. The Mancuso family wanted to reverse the situation. They purchased the complex and charged Joe Mancuso, then a hardware store manager, with filling it, creating jobs and making money.
He tried to find a single company to rent the behemoth plant riddled with maintenance needs but after a month resolved that was a "crazy" idea. Instead, he decided to divide the building and rent to separate businesses that he would nurture by providing shared office services, assistance with raising capital and business advice. Within a short time he had recruited his first tenants, including a winery, a charitable organization and a chicken company. "We were out on the road a lot of the time, trying to interest investors and attract companies to the center," he told the NBIA Review, "and in a joking way, because of all the chickens, we started calling it ’the incubator.’" The name stuck long after the chicken company left, and Mancuso would forever be known as the man who coined the term business incubator.
Mancuso’s contribution to the industry shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Batavia Industrial Center (BIC) thrived under his leadership, reaching capacity after about five years and creating thousands of jobs for the area. Besides his involvement with BIC, Mancuso worked with the State of New York to improve state building code to facilitate use of older buildings for incubators. He also advised Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) on the establishment of the RPI Incubator Center. His warm personality entertained audiences at several NBIA conferences, where he was always willing to share his vast knowledge and war stories from the industry’s earliest days. His work hasn’t gone unnoticed outside the industry. In 1986 Mancuso was named the New York State Economic Developer of the Year and in 1989-1990 he was named the New York State Small Business Advocate of the Year.
Mancuso later passed the management of BIC to his son Tom Mancuso. He died in 2008. His legacy is impressive, both worldwide and locally: BIC has graduated so many companies since it opened that it spurred the creation of the Batavia Industrial Park. And the City of Batavia enjoys more than $25 million in assessed valuation of property utilized by BIC graduates.
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