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Strong economy fuels TIC's success

October 26, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

A business-boosting building at Hagerstown Community College filled to capacity in the past three years as its monthly revenues swelled by more than 800 percent.

The Technical Innovation Center is a five-year-old economic development effort to foster new and expanding businesses. Director Doug Leather said a strong economy and eager entrepreneurs fueled its recent success.

The TIC is a three-story, 30,000-square-foot campus building with 29 office suites and meeting space on two floors. The first floor has flexible space for manufacturing. The offices are leased to existing and start-up companies to develop them.

In 1996, the facility had 10 tenants using 43 percent of the office space and 18 percent of its manufacturing floor space was occupied. This year it has 14 tenants using all its office and floor space.

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The manufacturing area is now using vertical shelving space, according to Leather. He gave a brief presentation to the college Board of Trustees Tuesday. He called the building Washington County's "first and foremost business incubator."

Built with a combination of public and private funds, the TIC operated on a "shoestring" budget when it opened in 1994, Leather said. An Economic Development Administration grant funded its management staff and the program was self-sufficient by 1998.

Its monthly income for rent and services grew from $1,287 in 1996 to about $12,700 this year, according to Leather. By 1996, the center had helped create or retain 17 jobs, he said. By this year the number had grown to 135.

The center's tenants can use the adjacent Advanced Technology Center's services and equipment such as training for computer-assisted drafting, technical consulting, satellite down-linking and fiber optic testing.

The technical center was the first of its kind to be associated with a technology center, according to Leather. The ATC became a springboard for the ITC. Together, the two centers have assisted more than 150 firms and created or retained more than 15,000 jobs, he said.

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