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Hagerstown small-business incubator site designs revealed

It will consolidate business-related resources in one place, creating an environment designed to assist in startup and early stage operations of new companies

August 13, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com

City officials on Tuesday revealed preliminary designs for a downtown small-business incubator site on West Washington Street — a project that has been in the planning stages for years.

Downtown Manager Andrew Sargent said the plan is to build out the roughly 2,800-square-foot middle section of 60 W. Washington St. by January 2014 using the remaining $173,000 from the $174,579 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Enterprise Grant the city was awarded in September 2012.

Sargent said $100,000 of the grant remains for equipment and furnishing, and $73,000 remains for construction. Less than $2,000 of the grant initially was used for design costs. 

The business incubator — which city officials have dubbed the “Entrepreneurial Collider” or eCollider — will consolidate business-related resources in one place, creating an environment designed to assist in startup and early stage operations of new companies.

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“(A place) Where resources and businesses and the people looking to provide and start business kind of collide ... you kind of try to force the interaction ... and people learn and grow from each other,” Sargent said of the term eCollider.

The interior layout purposefully will allow for interaction among strangers, Sargent said.

“The idea is that sparks will fly,” Mayor David S. Gysberts said.

The preliminary plans call for one office incubator space, one retail incubator space, a reception area and office, a larger flex room, a business resource library and an accelerator room, which will lend itself to various purposes, including seminars, meetings and events, according to city documents.

The city’s partners include Washington County government, Frostburg State University, University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, SCORE, Maryland Small Business and Technology Development Center, or SBTDC,  and the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce. 

SCORE and SBTDC “envision using the facility for seminars, meetings with clients and distributing resources to the businesses in need of assistance,” while other downtown businesses “will use the facility for networking events or staff training,” Sargent wrote in an Aug. 8 memorandum.

FSU plans to hold its Entrepreneurial Certificate program at the eCollider, where the program’s students would potentially staff and manage the facility through internships, city documents said.

Preliminary details still are being fleshed out, Sargent said.

Currently, two anchor tenants — Think ReInk in the front and USMH in the rear — occupy space in the building.

The five-member Hagerstown City Council approved the spending of capital improvement funds and grants to buy 60 W. Washington St., the former CVS building, for $220,000 in January 2011.

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