Lisa Cownie FEAtURE WRITER
“NOT FOR CHICKENS”
THE OWATONNA AREA BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CENTER
he entrepreneurial spirit appears to be alive and well in Steele County, with a little boost from the Owatonna Area Business Development Center. Nurturing this spirit is what spurred the Owatonna Incubator into action in 1988. To foster entrepreneurship and business innovation, the Owatonna Business Incubator was set up to assist entrepreneurs who had great ideas but needed physical space and business development guidance. The Incubator itself was a start-up and now has grown into its own. "We changed the name last year,” said Bill Owens, Executive Director. “The term incubator brings about images of fuzzy yellow chicks. If you are able to keep the fox out of the hen house and provide everything a fuzzy little chick needs you end up with a healthy chicken. Entrepreneurship is not for chickens. We do work with people from the very start until fruition, but the word incubator is not broad enough for what we do." The new name is the Owatonna Area Business Development Center. Its mission is, well, to develop business in a centralized location. "With this facility, we are able to provide space ideally suited for many types of businesses in various stages of growth," Owens said. "A company can lease out as little as 800 square feet of manufacturing
space. That in itself is remarkable. Now add access to restrooms, a break room, employee parking,
"We help people every day. People that want to fulfill their dream to start a business. People that have started their business but want to take it to that next stage. People that may be in need of assistance with their business. We have the resources to help them, whatever their situation." Bill Owens
four loading docks -two of which have load levelers, a large overhead door, access to a conference room, access to high speed fiber optic internet service and an in-house business consultant — me!" The facility itself is owned by the City of Owatonna. The Owatonna Area Business Development Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and Owens reports to a 14-member board of directors made up of individuals representing varied areas of business expertise and experience.
It’s a group dedicated to fostering the formation, growth and success of new and existing businesses. "We help people every day," Owens said. "People that want to fulfill their dream to start a business. People that have started their business but want to take it to that next stage. People that may be in need of assistance with their business. We have the resources to help them, whatever their situation." Located at 1065 24th Ave. SW in Owatonna, the center is a U.S. Small Business Administration-sponsored Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and offers its services at no cost to existing businesses and to individuals who are starting a business in the Owatonna Area. Since its inception, the Business Incubator has provided not only space, but access to loans, training and mentoring to more than 1,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners. Its impact on the local economy is evident – fully a quarter of those entrepreneurs have gone on to launch successful enterprises, he says. "Let us be your first call," said Owens. "The consulting services are confidential and, as part of the South East Minnesota Small Business Development Center, are paid for by the SBA. We want to see you succeed."
www.forgesteelecounty.com | 21