by Carol James
Joseph L. Mancuso of Batavia, N.Y., has been in business incubation longer than anyone. More than 40 years ago, Mancuso combined nearly 1 million square feet of empty space with a strong desire to put people to work, and developed "America's Original Business Incubator." Mancuso, now 82, continues to work at the Batavia Industrial Center, the incubator he founded in 1959, providing his experience and advice to the incubator and serving as chairman of his family's business.
"I still have what I think is my purpose — to put people to work," he says. His son, Tom Mancuso, is president of Joseph L. Mancuso & Sons. Two other sons also work in the company that operates the mixed-use incubator housing such diverse clients as craftsmen, nonprofit groups and artists, and manufacturing and technology companies.
Serendipity and a chicken producer led the family to incubation. The story began when Massey-Ferguson closed its Batavia plant in 1958, vacating 850,000 square feet of multistory buildings and driving unemployment to more than 20 percent in the community of about 16,000 residents. The Chamber of Commerce couldn't find a tenant for the facility, so the Mancuso family purchased it. "The Mancuso family wanted to reverse the situation," Joseph Mancuso says. His father, Ben, who was president of the company, gave Joseph the job of finding a tenant for the empty buildings. "He gave me an impossible job — and I'm good at that," Mancuso says.
Keywords: history of business incubation, people
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