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Develop a Small Business Incubator Task Force…

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From conclusion of the 2020 Meetings,our directive:
To identify an appropriate building in the downtown, and open space in it to incubate small and creative businesses in technology, the arts, manufacturing, and/or food products and services. By providing some common business infrastructure and shared space, the Incubator could seed next-generation business development in downtown Manchester and attract young creative entrepreneurs (and their families) to live in the community. Visit the About Us Page to learn more about our committee.

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Polling Manchester Area

Survey

After much discussion, it was decided to prepare an online survey that will be posted to this blog for the general community of the Manchester region to respond to. The purpose is to determine need, scale and areas of interest.

Step one is to write the survey. Janet obtained that which was written and used successfully  by  Lars Hasselblad Torres, owner of Local 64 co-working space in Montpelier. Lars is also director at the Office of the Creative Economy for the State. Please download it here, read it and post your thoughts to this blog. We will use this guide and feedback to write one for Manchester.

The Survey is in two parts. Part one shows both the questions and the results. Part two is just the questions. It is in survey form, so you can get a feel for how it looked. (note. If you do not have a goggle account, you will not be able to view some of these items. I will convert them by the weekend and let you know when posted.

View Survey, Part 1:          View Survey, Part 2: 

Getting the word out

We are to take a multi-channel approach to marketing this effort, including social media, area PR and connections to newspaper and canvasing areas such as Spiral Press , Farmers Markets, etc. More to come on this. John will also be meeting with Tricia Hayes to help coordinate all these efforts.

Let’s talk in general!

A MUST READ! for anyone working on this: Coworking in Vermont
I urge you all to take time in the coming days to read through this website and download the guide at the bottom of the page. Look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Lee Krohn and Pauline sent this along today. A very good read in Seven Days ….
Out of the Coffee Shop and Into a Coworking Space

A few people have asked about UcanVT. You can read about it at UcanVT.com. There are brochures around too. The website is in it’s initial launch and will be moving forward soon with more content and video interviews. The intended audience are out of town folk who have established businesses or professional practices, or want to build a new startup and seekto set up shop where there is a better way of life, here in Vermont.

June 19th – July 9th & Meeting

Upcoming meeting: July 9th at The Fresh Market, 6:30 pm

Agenda:
To implement community survey or review results depending on far we get. Organize other groups and get them off the ground.

Notes from 6/18 meeting:

Our meeting was lightly attended with about ten people making up the group. Conversation continuing from last meeting on trying to define what we are trying to build and for whom. With attendance light, it was not possible to break into the sub-groups as planned. In the end though, much progress was made as the first steps were laid out to discover need and demand of the community. This included discussion lead by steve Burzon regarding a business plan competition, with the idea that those looking to start something would come out of the word work. Great idea, but has money involved we do not currently have.Certainly an idea that had interest and one to use in the future.

Discussion then proceeded on to doing a survey.  This is the decided first. Thoughts to this have been posted in Define Demand. Please review, stay tuned and add input  to remain abreast and to learn more about what you can do. Call or write John if you have any questions. It would be great if we can fast track this work online.

With the 4th coming in two weeks, the next meeting was scheduled three weeks out, on the 9th at 6:30. But work will commence now and continue through the coming weeks.

June 5th-18th & Meeting

Place/Time: The Fresh Market @ 6:30*

Agenda:
Exact content to be determined soon, discussions to be continued, reports from sub-committees if they have had time to meet and move ahead.

Notes from 6/4 meeting:
Please note… Volunteer needed to take notes. This should just be a general note taking task to outline the discussions. No need to get into great detail. Let me know if you are interested. Does not have to be same person each time!

Much discussion, lively at times, centered on just what we are doing and for whom. Out of this came the structure and the initiatives of the first set of sub-committees. Please see each one in the header menu to determine who is in what group.

  • Type of System. Discussion commenced on defining just what an incubator, a co-working space and a hybrid of the two are. What is it that is needed here. There are a number of them within a few hours of Manchester, from the berkshires to our northern cities and towns to be looked at. Find best practices, common traits that make them great.
  • Business Structure. How is the incubator to be built? Who will do it? Us, Them? For profit or non- profit? This was not discussed in depth, but those who are working on this understand their task well it seems.
  • Define Demand. What are the needs of our community? What are potential businesses looking for? This was greatly debated, with facts and opinions thrown into the stew. We have a good group working on this, with a sort of off-shoot group looking specifically at agriculture.
    • Agriculture. There are reports of demand for this, but again, just what it is and how much of it there is needs to be determined. The supporting infrastructure may prove to be the most costly and  it may not be able to be accommodated in the same space as other businesses. This was not seen as a good thing, as it weakens the strength of the collaborative process.
    • Hi-Technology. This is certainly the buzz industry for most business incubators and co-work spaces. It is questioned just how much of it is in our area. The lack of skilled tech labor in the area was brought up. The positive side of course is the potential for it being embraced by younger age groups, higher paying jobs and a definite nod to the future.
    • Manufacturing. It was mentioned but quickly lead to a discussion regarding the lack of skilled labor for niche areas, primarily a result of low population and just not having those skills in quantity. Which leads to thoughts on specializing in well defined niche areas and the advantages of doing so.
  • Local business support. Much discussion also ensued regarding local businesses’s being established in the retail market. The opportunities and barriers that exist. While it was determined that these are not businesses that would use an incubator or even a co-working space, they could very well benefit from using the support services that would be available. These services should be made available to those not necessarily physically running their businesses in the “space”. SCORE is an integral component.
  • Determine Space. Not much discussion here as it is too early to determine what the need will be. It was noted that Clark French, who is in negotiations with Berkshire Bank to buy the main street property, has approached the group and that the 2nd floor may be available for this purpose. It was also noted that there are a number of opportunities in town to review.

Other discussions and key works mentioned included… what are the low hanging fruit. How do we get something small going and build from that. The energy was high in the meeting with determination and optimism.

* Please note: The day and time was discussed and Tuesday remains the best day to do this for the vast majority. I am certain, for those who can not make these meetings, you can still be an important part of this initiative. I am always up for a cup of coffee or glass of wine, as I am sure are others, to keep things going and sub-committee’s will determine their own timing. You are also most welcome to discuss here in the blog and add your comments and feedback!

Note 2: Steve request you NOT park in the neighboring restaurant parking. There is plenty of parking along the left side of the building and in the municipal lot on Elm Street. Please help Steve keep the peace.