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Bouncing back: Fulton-Carroll Center rebounds to help neighborhood

by Linda Knopp

December 2006

by Linda Knopp The Fulton-Carroll Center, one of the oldest incubators in the United States, has experienced its share of ups and downs. In its heyday, the mixed-use incubation program served as the focal point of efforts to revive one of Chicago’s most economically depressed neighborhoods. But the once-thriving incubator that helped combat deteriorating economic and social conditions in Chicago’s nearwest side in the 1980s fell on its own hard times in the 1990s.

Owned and operated by the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago and its sister organization, the Kinzie Industrial Development Corp., FCC was managed by a series of property management companies during much of the 1990s. And the results weren’t good. Incubator services dwindled, and clients lost their connection to each other and their community.

ICNC once again assumed direct control of the incubator in 2001. But change didn’t come easily. During the time FCC was under outside management, there was little focus on client services, minimal investment in long-term building maintenance and inadequate attention to managing the incubator’s finances, Shanahan says. As a result, FCC looked more like an office building in disrepair than the thriving incubation program it once was.

With a renewed focus on returning FCC to its incubator roots, ICNC expanded the center’s business assistance programs and started much-needed facility renovations. And their efforts have paid off: In the last two years, FCC has welcomed more than 40 new client companies, most of which are owned by residents of Chicago’s nearwest side, women and/or minorities.

In recognition of its turnaround, NBIA presented the Fulton-Carroll Center with the 2006 Incubator of the Year award at NBIA’s 20th International Conference on Business Incubation in St. Louis. Read on to learn how FCC has reemerged as a thriving incubation program, leading a revival of its nearwest Chicago neighborhood.

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Keywords: best practices, incubator failure, social entrepreneurship

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