Small Business/Virtual Incubator
A small business and virtual incubator could help new and entrepreneurial businesses start and grow in the Columbia-Pacific District, which is in great need of jobs and economic development. It will provide entrepreneurs with the expertise, networks and tools they need to make their business ventures succeed. If virtual incubator business services can be offered remotely by telephone, television and computer internet facilities, businesses may not need to relocate to grow. This could benefit all the communities in the four-county Columbia-Pacific District.
A small business incubator reduces the risk of small business failure. Startup firms in the over 800 small-business incubators which are members of the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) increase sales and add an average of 3.7 full-time and part-time jobs per firm. Eighty-four percent of incubator graduates stay in their communities and continue to provide a return to their investors. A small business incubation program's main goal is to produce successful graduates — businesses that are financially viable and freestanding when they leave the incubator, usually in two to three years.
Small business incubation is a dynamic process of business enterprise development. Incubators nurture young firms, helping them to survive and grow during the start-up period when they are most vulnerable. Incubators provide an array of business support resources and services, such as hands-on management assistance, access to financing and orchestrated exposure to critical business or technical support services. Most also offer shared office services (e.g., reception, answering service, web page maintenance, marketing assistance), access to equipment, flexible leases and expandable space.
Columbia-Pacific RC&EDD conducted a study of the feasibility of a small business/virtual incubator in the District. The feasibility study showed whether an incubator is economically practical over an extended period. The intention was to determine whether market-based fees to client businesses can keep the incubator operating on a self-sustaining basis. This means identifying the number of potential clients and projecting the future use of incubator services as businesses graduate from the incubator program.
The feasibility study answered the following questions:
- Are there enough businesses to justify a profitable incubator?
- What types of businesses would most likely use an incubator in our district?
- Can some client businesses be served remotely through a “virtual” incubator?
- What kind of management system works best?
- How large a facility would be optimal? What size facility would be optimal?
- What services and facilities should be offered?
- What is the entrepreneurial climate in our district (which will affect the outcome of a small business incubator)?