Wednesday, January 30, 2013
INDEPENDENCE -- A program the city of Independence created four years ago to aid local entrepreneurs no longer has a staff to administer it.
Marie Trucco stepped down as director of the Greater Independence Business Incubator (GIBI) in December. Loss of grant dollars that funded the initiative and no stable means of revenue for expenses were factors, officials said.
"It was a hard decision," said Shawn Irvine, Independence economic development director. "But it's always difficult to find a revenue stream for an incubator -- you're providing consulting services at a reduced cost.
"We hoped to support it with grants, but even that is a dicey proposition."
The city developed the incubator concept in 2005, with the goal of providing a facility that start-up businesses could rent at a low cost. The incubator also made financial training and business planning services available via classes.
"The idea was stimulating the creation of new jobs in our community," City Manager David Clyne said. "There are a lot of steps one needs to take when you're trying to set up a business."
The organization was turned into a nonprofit, hired Trucco, and was housed in a building at 412 S. Main St. in 2009.
GIBI provided consulting to 18 area businesses and assisted 13 start-ups, which has helped retain or create 25 jobs, officials said. Trucco also helped facilitate the Independence Riverview Farmers Market, which opened late last summer.
Trucco managed the event center of the Independence Civic Center, with proceeds from rentals used as incubator revenue. Independence also contributed a one-time $50,000 grant in 2010 to keep it running, but it wasn't enough, Clyne said.
"The one thing that was disappointing is we hoped it would be more sustainable in its current model," Clyne said.
"But for business consultations, people enjoyed the free services it provided but weren't prepared to pay," Clyne continued. "And it didn't help that the event center was closed for six months (due to flooding), either."
Does this mean GIBI is dead? Not exactly. Clyne said the incubator simply has no staff. It's unknown if its board of directors will continue offering services.
Fortunately, classes the incubator provided will still be offered locally by organizations such as Salem-based MicroEnterprise Resources, Initiatives & Training, he said.
"I would love to have kept doing it," Trucco said, noting she'll be teaching some of the aforementioned classes. "GIBI had an impact and there were plenty of businesses it supported, especially in the early stages."