National Business Incubation Association; Your source for knowledge and networks in business incubation

Core survey reveals NBIA's best member benefit

by Sally Hayhow

August 1998

Thanks to the annoyingly memorable American Express ad, we've heard "membership has its privileges" about a zillion too many times. Even decades after the campaign's supposed demise, typing the phrase into an Internet search engine turns up 600-plus hits. Organizations still use the phrase to herald their discounts, special programs and member services.

Thinking of benefits as giveaways and specials can overshadow the purpose of having benefits at all: to help members do their jobs better and easier. Over the past year NBIA exposed itself to a litmus test on this score. It conducted a State of the Industry Survey of North American incubators, which in itself is nothing new. NBIA has done similar, periodic surveys since 1989. Except for methodological refinements, this survey was akin to previous incarnations, with one major difference. In the data analysis, we compared the performance of members to nonmembers to see if members had an edge.

The results are clear. NBIA membership has its privileges. When the data were crunched, NBIA member incubators outperformed nonmembers in every category. What could be a better benefit! For instance, member incubators served, on average, twice as many client companies and nearly twice as many graduates as nonmember incubators did. The average member incubator's client companies created one-third more jobs than client companies in nonmember incubators. Concentration of services was higher among members. Member incubators were larger. All this is in spite of the fact that member and nonmember incubators are about the same age.

Even in areas where performance was not an issue, there were interesting differences. Half the member incubators were located in urban areas and about a quarter were rural. The pattern was reversed for nonmembers; 50 percent were rural and about a third were urban. Mixed-use incubators dominated among nonmembers (55 percent), and only 13 percent were technology. Almost equal numbers of member incubators were mixed use (37 percent) and technology (33 percent).

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Keywords: research -- incubation, NBIA programs

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