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Depot to help nurture businesses

August 04, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority agreed Monday to provide free space at the depot for a business incubator that would be run by the Franklin County Area Development Corporation.

Corporation Executive Director L. Michael Ross, a member of the authority board, asked the authority to provide building space for the proposed incubator, a center to help develop new and small businesses.

"Without the building at no cost, frankly, it doesn't work," said David G. Sciamanna, executive director of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce and a member of a task force examining the business incubator proposal.

Ross said the group is considering using half of an industrial building at the depot, about 42,000 square feet.

He said an incubator can offer businesses assistance in financing, job training, technical support, accounting and marketing, as well as shared administrative and office services, such as a telephone systems, copiers and fax machines.

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"The idea is to reduce some of the start-up overhead associated with a business. A big cause of failure for start-up businesses is they are undercapitalized," Ross said.

Ross said the incubator could rent space and offer services to light manufacturing, warehousing and distribution companies, but would not be limited to those areas. Those industries are compatible with work done at the depot now, "but we want to maintain as much flexibility as possible," he said.

The authority early this year hired Greenwood Consulting Group Inc. of Sanibel Island, Fla., to draft a $45,000 feasibility study. The work included studying two area incubators - the Technical Innovations Center at Hagerstown Community College and the Frehn Center for Management at Shippensburg (Pa.) University.

The consultants also held a seminar at the depot in March to gauge interest. A summary of the feasibility study noted that 16 of those attending the seminar "indicated an interest in becoming tenants at the incubator, and another 40 are interested in using services at the incubator."

The study concluded there is a enough of a market, expertise and resources in the community to support "a modestly sized incubator program."

According to Ross, the consultants have been told to go forward with another study to determine the cost to build and run an incubator. Ross said money to remodel the building could come from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which has already approved funds for a number of capital improvement projects on the 1,500 acres of the depot the Army will turn over to the authority.

Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development programs such as the Ben Franklin Partnership, which provides financial assistance to advanced-technology businesses, could be a source of funding for the incubator, according to Ross.

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