Cornerstone of a dream Step one: Jay G. Goldsberry and Scott Rosenberger have renovated a 1,000-square-foot space within a Canton factory for 18 Internet-connected businesses.

April 08, 1996|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Internet Enterprise Center Inc. is the kind of name one would expect to find on a business lodged in a suburban industrial park or in a modern office suite near a college campus.

It doesn't exactly call up visions of an 89-year-old red brick factory on the Canton waterfront, under a painted sign proclaiming the home of Little Lady and Little Nugget brooms.

But the old Atlantic-Southwestern Broom Co. plant on South Baylis Street is precisely where Jay G. Goldsberry hopes to bring together a critical mass of Internet-related businesses under one roof.

Furthermore, the old factory and others like it are the cornerstone of Mr. Goldsberry's vision of a nationwide network of Internet incubators operating out of old industrial buildings.

Mr. Goldsberry, a seasoned Internet entrepreneur, and his partner Scott Rosenberger, whose family has owned the factory since its construction in 1907, have renovated a 1,000-square-foot space within the factory for 18 Internet-connected businesses.

They're now in the process of seeking tenants from among the 200 to 300 small Internet businesses that Mr. Goldsberry believes are working out of basements, home offices and the back rooms of stores in the Baltimore area. Construction of the first phase is expected to be complete by the end of this week.

Mr. Goldsberry, who sold his interest in a Towson-based Internet service provider in February, said he believes the Internet Enterprise Center is the nation's first effort to cluster Internet entrepreneurs in a single industrial space.

"To our knowledge it's the first of its kind anywhere, and it was invented in Baltimore," he said.

Sally Haydon, a spokeswoman for the National Business Incubator Association in Athens, Ohio, said there are software incubators that include Internet-related companies but that Mr. Goldsberry's Internet-only approach was "unique."

"I don't think it'll be the last one because there's so much business that relates to the Internet," she said.

The key selling point is the notion of sharing telecommunications costs. Mr. Goldsberry said that instead of buying its own high-capacity telephone link to the Internet, a small company operating out of his center will be able to share a common high-speed connection and pay only for the capacity, or bandwidth, it uses.

Mr. Goldsberry said he and Mr. Rosenberger are having a connection extended to the building that will provide the equivalent of three T-1 lines, each of which is equivalent to 24 voice lines.

He estimated that by sharing costs, a company that now pays $175 a month to Bell Atlantic Corp. for a T-1 line will be able to cut its bill for high-speed lines to $100 a month. He said the center will also be able to provide a port for Internet access for $100 a month compared with $225 at some competitors.

"It's like buying petroleum right off the tanker," Mr. Goldsberry said. He added that he is talking with MFS Communications Corp., which operates one of the nation's major Internet access points in Washington, about establishing a direct connection to his site -- a move that would further drive down costs.

With rents of $2 to $3 per square foot, Mr. Goldsberry expects to find considerable interest among the city's Internet businesses. As examples of the kind of businesses he expects to attract, he cited Internet service providers, World Wide Web page developers, graphic designers who use the Web and companies that develop software for the Internet.

Companies that locate there will not be going for the plush surroundings. The center's home still has the look and feel of a factory. "It's clearly industrial. You're not standing in the Taj or anything," Mr. Goldsberry said.

Nevertheless, the Internet Enterprise Center is not an attempt to revitalize a moribund property. Mr. Rosenberger said the old factory, which ceased production a decade ago, is fully occupied by an eclectic mix of small companies. They include woodworking firms, a photography studio, a distributor of raw honey and an assortment of artists.

Mr. Rosenberger said the partners expect Internet companies to move into space created by normal tenant turnover. Their growth plans call for an eventual 10,000 square feet to be devoted to Internet businesses, which will also be offered support services and consulting help as part of an "incubator" plan.

In addition to human tenants, Mr. Goldsberry also expects to rent space for companies' Web servers, powerful computers used to store and retrieve data. By locating at the center, companies could connect their servers to the Internet at a lower cost, he said.

Mr. Goldsberry, a 53-year-old veteran of the computer industry, said he hopes the center will offer advantages besides low lTC costs. He'd like to see his tenants evolve into a community of like-minded entrepreneurs who could share ideas and form partnerships.

"We know that if you get a graphics person in the office right next to a Web developer and they're next to someone who's doing interesting software that works on the Web, they'll get together," he said.

Assuming he can prove the concept works in Baltimore, Mr. Goldsberry intends to eventually take the idea on the road. "It's franchisable," he said, adding that virtually every city in the country has an abundance of vacant industrial buildings. "It reuses space that otherwise would be abandoned and just be an eyesore," he said. "Old buildings and incubators work together."

Pub Date: 4/08/96

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