An Incubator For Entrepreneurs

By Josh Sigler
Kokomo Tribune, Ind.

Since 2004, Inventrek Technology Park has served as an incubator for fledgling businesses trying to get off the ground.

It’s become a trusted safe haven for entrepreneurs with a clear vision for the direction in which they’d like to see their endeavors move.

The facility recently announced a new venture which will cater to those budding entrepreneurs who haven’t quite progressed enough to occupy their own business space.

In July, Inventrek unveiled plans for the city of Kokomo’s first co-working initiative, where entrepreneurs of all walks of life can rent work space while having access to the facility’s amenities.

“The excitement it will bring to the building is going to be wonderful,” Inventrek Manager of Economic Development Mike McCool said. “You can’t get enough young professionals or entrepreneurs who are excited, driven and motivated. It just adds a buzz to the building that’s really neat.”

Before becoming the marketing and communications director for the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, Katie Guyer frequented a co-working space in Broad Ripple called the Speakeasy.

Seeing a similar environment taking shape in Kokomo is exciting for her.

“Some people know they need it but they don’t know where to go,” Guyer said. “They don’t know these kinds of things exist. So, being able to have this out there as an option, I think we’re going to see more demand than we originally anticipated.

“We’re looking to attract everyone, even people who don’t know they need this space yet,” she added. “In terms of who we’re looking for, I think we’re going to find out we’re attracting people who run all levels of the business spectrum. There’s something for everybody in that kind of space.
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Business amenities
The co-working space is currently under construction, and Inventrek hopes to have it open by the end of September.

The 3,000-square-foot space will offer entrepreneurs wifi and hard-fiber Internet, conference rooms of various shapes and sizes, private phone discussion spaces, mail room slots to give entrepreneurs a place to have their mail sent, copy machines, fax machines, a coffee bar which will serve breakfast and lunch, as well as access to the Indiana Small Business Development Group.

Those interested in utilizing the space may purchase a membership for $40 per month, or $30 per month for students. Year-long passes are also available for $440, or $330 for students.

The space will accommodate 30 to 40 entrepreneurs comfortably. McCool said Inventrek is looking for a membership of around 100, because the space won’t be utilized by everyone all at once.

Members will have around-the-clock access to the facility, as well as admission to all of Inventrek’s programming and networking events.

The Alliance said in a press release in July that local architectural firm Dimensions, Inc. is designing the space, which will be aided by a $25,000 Innovate Indiana grant from Indiana University.

“It’s a natural transition or addition to our current Inventrek Technology Park,” McCool said. “It’s a transition that’s been happening throughout the country. There are almost 800 of them throughout the country. Early on in the process, we made visits to several of the sites throughout the state, including places in Fishers and Lafayette, to evaluate their sites and see if it was something that would be a good fit here. It was a natural fit for us to bring this type of space to Kokomo.”

Looking for inspiration
Launch Fishers stood out as a model for sustainability. The co-working space recently outgrew its 15,000-square-foot facility and, with the help of the city of Fishers, recently purchased a $3 million building to move into.

Officials also visited Matchbox in Lafayette to get a feel for what’s been successful there. They also made the trek to Huntingburg to see a new co-working space. That one was particularly intriguing because it was designed in a small town, yet has enjoyed a high level of success.

“Part of the reason why this is so good for Kokomo is we are really focusing on talent attraction in that young professional segment that will help move our community forward,” Guyer said. “We have a lot of young professionals who are getting more active in business and politics and just getting more out there in the community.”

Guyer said the city was lacking this type of cohesive space for entrepreneurs to get together and share ideas, work side by side on projects and collaborate. It was a glaring weakness, so as the Alliance addressed its strategic priorities in recent months, it became abundantly clear a co-working space would be a natural fit for the city’s economic vision.

“I’m excited to see more things being targeted at that young professional group,” she said. “I think this is an amenity that was lacking. I think it makes perfect sense for it to be at Inventrek. To see another type of innovation coming out of our community that’s going to target that young professional or startup company is really exciting for me. I think we’re going to see in our economy here locally a lot of positive impact from that. People will be able to network and find each other easier.

“They’ll be able to share ideas, and we might see more businesses come out of that co-worker space,” Guyer added. “We might see new groups or business partnerships blossom. The sky is the limit once you get those people interacting in terms of what can come out of it.”

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