Out with old, in with new at the incubator

NeoTech makes room for new companies as first one graduates

Howard Business

October 15, 2001|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Howard County's NeoTech incubator is getting stuffed.

While the incubator's first graduate is preparing to leave the facility next month, three new companies have arrived in the past four months.

And managers there are making room for the state's Department of Business and Economic Development.

"DBED is moving here because they want to have a presence in Howard County," said Carol Morrison, incubator manager. "It goes back to us saying this is one-stop shopping."

In the almost 1 1/2 years since the incubator opened, 10 companies have located there to share conference facilities, office support services and equipment at more affordable lease rates than are typically available in Columbia.

Since June, three new companies have landed in the incubator: Scientific Data Systems and Netta Systems, both of which are involved in information security, arrived in June and last month, respectively. The newest addition, Recovered Stuff, moved in last week.

EpiTech, the incubator's first graduate, is scheduled to move out next month, when renovations to its new office space are completed, but that won't keep quarters from being cramped.

Managers at the incubator are squeezing themselves two to an office to make room for the new tenants, Morrison said.

The facility that opened with 10,000 square feet in May last year has doubled in size. In addition to the incubator companies, the facility also houses the Business Resource Center - a collection of organizations that provide advice, information and funding to the county's small business clients.

Each month, about 100 clients pass through the center, visiting the Service Corps of Retired Executives, which offers advice to small business owners about strategic planning and preparation for financing; the Jim Rouse Entrepreneurial Fund, which offers loans to small businesses that may be too risky for conventional financing; and the Small Business Development Center, which offers workshops and seminars in basic business concepts such as writing a business plan and marketing.

The central location of those services and the level of business activity in Howard County persuaded officials at the state business development office to open a satellite at the incubator. Department staff based in Rockville had been working with companies in Howard County.

"It's a good opportunity to get closer with local economic development and also get closer to our business customers," said Vernon Thompson, the department's assistant secretary for regional development. "It certainly makes some sense to have us where people are doing business with business. There certainly is some synergy there."

The office will serve as an administrative base for the representatives who travel to local companies, visiting with them as part of the state's retention, growth and expansion effort.

However, because so many business clients use the county's business development center, the location may also prove helpful to department representatives, Thompson said. The Columbia office likely will serve Frederick County clients as well.

"It can work to the advantage of companies locally to have our staff there to meet with businesses," he said.

Morrison concurred. "It's advantageous to our companies here because of the services they offer," she said. The Department of Business and Economic Development representative "was here several times a week. This just makes things a little easier for her and much nicer for us."

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