What is it? Business incubators encourage and assist business formation in a community by providing services, spaces and resources to new entrepreneurs at reduced rates. An incubator program often consists of a dedicated space to co-house new business start-ups. Entrepreneurs apply to participate and, if selected, may have a number of different spaces from which to choose depending on business needs. Incubators may serve a range of business types or be dedicated to a particular cluster (food, technology, etc.) or type of business (light manufacturing, services, retail, etc.). Incubator program help lessen business start-up costs and increase the likelihood of success, by providing resources and assistance that fledgling business owners, may not otherwise be able to access. For example, incubators may offer meeting rooms, copying and printing, office assistance and other kinds of shared services that its business owner “tenants” can access as part of their participation. The most comprehensive programs also provide expertise, mentorship, training opportunities and other resources that help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into successes.
How has it been used? Galax, Virginia and its neighboring counties, like many other largely rural places, have experienced job losses due to a decline in the manufacturing sector. The localities collaborated regionally to establish the Crossroads Institute, working in part to help people realize their dreams of starting a business. The Institute partners with a number of organizations to help provide individuals with what they need to take their dream from idea to reality. The Institute itself is housed in a former Lowe’s Store, which has been renovated into a modern, multi-purpose space for workforce education, community college satellite courses, and offices and other types of spaces for business start-up “tenants”. Spaces for use by tenants and others include several different labs, a kitchen, a computer emporium, a conference room and modular workspaces for entrepreneurs to utilize. Businesses benefit from the use of shared office services and other resources and by paying reduced rates for their space, compared to the open market. In addition, the Institute offers training, mentoring and other services including a small business development center location. (Source: The Crossroads Institute)