Incubator attracting foreign interest

`Word's getting out we're doing something different'

Small business

July 01, 2002|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Economic Development Authority's Neotech incubator is making ripples that are reaching around the world.

It has been only two years since the technology business incubator opened, and already it is attracting the attention of international governments, universities and business groups that want to open similar training grounds for their fledgling companies.

Last month, a delegation from Russia toured the incubator facilities and met with the program directors.

It's not the first time the facility has played host to international visitors.

Business leaders from Japan, China, South Korea, France and Switzerland have learned about Neotech's practices and goals.

The fact that they have traveled to Howard County speaks well of the facility that in only two years has graduated two companies and has 11 others in development, said Michael Haines, senior vice president of small business development.

"They're trying to learn why we are successful," Haines said.

"For some reason, word's getting out we're doing something different than any other [incubator]," he said.

"We combine the small-business resource center, the incubator, the [state Department of Business and Economic Development satellite] office. That is the unique thing here. There are not too many people that combine all these resources in the same place."

The international attention and interest in expanding abroad from companies such as a2z Inc., which is based in the incubator, has prompted Haines to try to create a network of incubators that would provide a safe landing place for member companies when they want to expand in another country.

The IncuNet program is in its preliminary stages, but Haines said he hopes to involve two incubators each from Europe, Asia and the United States. "We've had some interest shown from Morocco," Haines said. That's not a target area, "but it does give an indication that there's interest."

The Neotech incubator is designed to give technology companies business guidance and a low-cost opportunity to develop a product. Already it has had two graduates, and another few are expected to graduate this year.

Companies there are working on a variety of technologies, from the online trade show management software of a2z, to powerful amplifiers for cellular phones from Syncrodyne Systems Corp., the latest com- pany to lease space in the incubator.

Chance Glenn, founder and president of Syncrodyne, said he wanted to be more connected with companies that are technically oriented like his and to take advantage of the attention of investors, who often visit to check on companies.

"Every time we talk to a potential investor and say we're a part of this program, it's a good thing," Glenn said. "I think they feel there's a certain level of accountability in how the system operates. That increases their comfort level. The percentages of success are much greater when you're part of something like this."

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