Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

August 5, 2010

Construction begins on Business Incubator

It's a dream that's been five years in the making. Now, work is under way to construct the 10,000-square-foot Cumberland Business Incubator on the campus of the Cumberland County Higher Education Center.

"This is the first day of our new dream," said Gary Goff, president of Roane State Community College. "This will allow us to bring entrepreneurs into a cocoon and provide the guidance, advice and support to create their business and to assist them out of the incubator and into facilities in Cumberland County to create jobs."

The project is funded by gifts of $250,000 from the city of Crossville and Cumberland County and an $880,000 grant from the U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration.

"These are difficult times for the people of our community," said Cumberland County Mayor Brock Hill. "People are coming to places like this to make themselves marketable. It's the same tactic the county government is doing. We're investing in things that will make us a little bit better.

"This is one of those projects, and we have a tourist visitors' center and an industrial park. These are projects that we know that the payback may not be today, but it will be in the future. That's what we're here for, to provide services for today and to plan for the future so that we all have an opportunity to grab a part of that American dream."

Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III said, "When you talk about the city of Crossville, you hear me talk about roads, water, sewer, police, fire and recreation. Over the last few years, the city of Crossville through the Crossville City Council has done a lot of wonderful things to those ends. One of the finest things we have ever done for the city of Crossville and Cumberland County is to build the Cumberland Business Incubator."

Jerry Wood, chairman of the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce, said, "The vision, cooperation and partnership is vital to the future of Cumberland County. The Chamber has a unique role in supporting existing business, which we take seriously, but we also have a role of bringing other business into the community."

Other partners in the project include Tennessee Technology Center at Crossville, Tennessee Technological University, the Cumberland County School System, East Tennessee Human Resource Agency Workforce Development, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

"Bringing partnerships together between the city, county, state and federal governments is one of the finest things we can do," Graham said. "And when you come back for the next 10,000 square foot expansion, I will be there again."

The partnerships with the educational institutions not only provides an opportunity to expand entrepreneur's skills but also allow them to tap the expertise of professors with questions about business, accounting, human resources and marketing.

"They will succeed because we give them an opportunity, not because we did it for them," Hill said.

Don Sadler, director of TTCC, said, "We have folks on our campus and will have some in the future that want to take the knowledge they've gained at the center and start their own business. They have those dreams."

Robert Safdie has been tapped as director of the business incubator, and Goff also thanked RSCC professor Brad Fox and James Jordan-Wagner, dean of the TTU College of Business, for their support.

"Robert Safdie believed in this project all along," Goff said. "We both agreed the role of Roane State is to help grow the economies in the communities we serve and be partners where ever we can."

Safdie will lead the incubator as entrepreneurs are recruited to the project.

Fox has organized the annual Mind Your Own Business summer camp for junior high students.

Roane State also offers small businesses free advice in technical and business matters through its Small Business Center.

Goff thanked local business leaders for their support of the project, including Millard Oakley who helped to arrange a trip to Washington, DC so the community could meet with Lincoln Davis and Ann Pope of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Hill noted the project got its start with a $30,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development and a $15,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Those funds were used for preliminary planning.

"If we hadn't had that money, we couldn't have done the planning needed to get the Economic Development Administration grant," he said.

The school system, as well as Roane State, has started reaching out to the next generation of entrepreneurs through programs like the Mind Your Own Business summer camp for junior high students and the Junior Achievement program for grades 5 through 8 at Stone Elementary.

Susanne Wilson, principal of Stone Elementary, said, "Our goal is to produce students who will become active citizens of our community. One day, they will have the role of running our businesses, and we need to prepare them."

Mid-State Construction won the $1.19 million contract to build the facility that will include nine office areas and three bays suitable for light manufacturing operations.

Safdie noted the project is unique because it not only provides a brick-and-mortar location to house businesses, but also access to consultants and programs that can help businesses deal with the challenges they face during the first three years of operation. The project is expected to create more than 120 jobs in the area by supporting the growth of entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Construction will be complete by May 2011.

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