by Meredith Erlewine
When a community has many of its job-hatching eggs in one basket, the economic mood can be a little jittery, especially when that basket is a federal energy reservation with a shrinking workforce. With that in mind, in 1987, the city of Richland, Wash., decided to put some of its eggs into a business incubator.
Eleven years later, Richland's Technology and Enterprise Center (TEC) is proof that a company town can break the mold and that business incubation can be at the center of the strategy. The process wasn't easy, however. Gaining community support and trust takes time, elbow grease, and most importantly, results. People want tangible proof that an economic development program is helping their community. TEC and its parent economic development organization, Tri-Cities Enterprise Association (TEA), have provided that proof in the form of new businesses, jobs, products and services for residents of the cities of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick.
Since the incubator opened, its clients and 85 graduates have created nearly 250 businesses. Those who answered a TEC survey (100 percent of current clients and about 30 percent of graduates) reported a payroll of $11.6 million for 1997 and gross sales revenues of $29.7 million.
All of this translates into jobs. TEA has helped its clients produce 650 jobs for residents of the Tri-cities area. "For our relatively small community [about 170,000], that's pretty darn significant," says Dallas Breamer, manager of TEC and TEA president. TEC's achievements earned the incubator NBIA's highest award in 1998: The Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year Award.
Keywords: best practices, economic impact of incubation, client selection/admissions
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