Warsaw Redevelopment Takes Step Toward Creation Of Business Incubator, Accelerator

A first step was taken by the Warsaw Redevelopment Commission on Monday toward the creation of a potential business accelerator/incubator at the Warsaw Tech Park.

City Planner Jeremy Skinner presented the commission with a contract with MKM Architecture + Design for an amount not to exceed $27,000 in fees for feasibility analysis, visioning workship, conceptual planning and design and an additional $1,500 for reimbursable expenses like travel, food and printing.

“This contract is to start preliminary engineering and design for the potential, what I’ll call, accelerator/incubator out at the Tech Park. And we are in the process of working with KEDCO and (KEDCO CEO) Alan Tio to apply for a grant. As part of that grant, we are to do a PER, which MKM has been selected by the committee to provide that service for the grant application,” Skinner said.

Tio said, “We have an opportunity with funding through the Economic Development Administration to apply for what’s essentially an 80/20 grant, a combination of federal dollars to be matched with local dollars, that would support the construction of – we’ll call it innovation center. It’ll house an incubator, accelerator, programming.”

The center would provide a “front door” to companies looking to start or grow in the area. He said they don’t want to miss the opportunity to pursue the federal funding, if possible, to match the local funding, which will help bring the accelerator/incubator about faster.

“Our objective is to put together an application for that funding. There’s not a deadline, it’s a rolling application process, and then to apply for funding so we’d be able to be under construction ideally next year, if we’re successful. A lot of work to do,” Tio said.

Skinner said the agreement presented Monday was for the work that would go into providing the answers that are needed for the grant submission in terms of project design, engineering and estimated cost.

Ideally, the innovation center would be on property next to Ivy Tech along U.S. 30, Skinner said. The city is in conversations with Ivy Tech to see if it’s a possibility that Ivy Tech would sell or give some of its property to the project.

“So this is the beginning stages of that work and it’s needed not only for the grant submission, but also needed as we work with Ivy Tech to see how we can connect this or put this on property that would go along with their campus,” Skinner said.

The application for the Warsaw Tech Park was submitted to the state in 2012. There were a number of goals in the application, including an accelerator/incubator in connection with the city’s educational partner.

“So as part of this process, we’ll be speaking with Ivy Tech and Grace College to see how we can bring them in, in connection to the incubator/accelerator,” Skinner said. “… There’s a lot of hurdles to get through yet to get there, but before we do our Tech Park recertification four years from now, I think it’s important we start the process to work toward this final goal outlined within our Tech Park.”

The funds for the project will come from the Technology Park increment. Skinner said there’s currently over $1 million in that fund.

“So this is kind of the first step, getting that first kind of design/look cost estimate that would be part of a grant application. Whether we get that grant or proceed for other grants, all of this is kind of needed as we begin that first step toward an accelerator/incubator space,” Skinner said.

Redevelopment President Tim Meyer said the accelerator/incubator was part of the original 2012 application for the Tech Park and “that what we would a physical presence of an innovation center on that property.” The original footprint was for a 10,000-square-foot innovation center with the option for another 10,000 square feet.

Skinner said they’ll be working with their partners on the project – KEDCO, Ivy Tech, Grace College, AcceLINX. “So there’s a lot of different partners we’ll be communicating with as we start this process, but this is kind of the first step in doing that, and, obviously, the opportunity to go after this grant, which is an 80/20 grant. So if we were to build a building, just a potential to have 80% of the building costs covered by this grant and we’d cover 20%,” he said.

There is no time frame on the grant application, but Skinner said that other communities across multiple states in the region are applying for the pot of money, so the sooner the application is in, the better.

Mike Klondaris, city councilman and Redevelopment Commission member, asked Tio if KEDCO was putting any money into the project. Tio said that while KEDCO was not putting any money in toward the contract presented Monday, KEDCO is significantly investing its time and attention toward the project. KEDCO also paid for a feasibility study for an incubator and is paying for someone to go out and design a work plan for what will go on in the building.

Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer told the Commission that he and George Robertson, Tio’s predecessor, sat down years ago to make the Tech Park application to the state.

“This was a program that then-Gov. (Mitch) Daniels brilliantly had laid out, which was taken advantage of by … 22 locations that desired to increase the quality of manufacturing in the communities. High-tech, high-wage jobs. And the focus of this was this tax increment that comes off the sales tax and income tax generated within the park. In other words, the increment that we are capped at $5 million,” Thallemer said.

The use of that money is “very, very specific,” he said. It can basically be used for infrastructure to develop the industrial part of a Tech Park or to develop an accelerator. “And there’s basically very little wiggle room in how those funds can be spent.”

Thallemer said he believed the only amount of money that the city has spent from the fund is in its support of AcceLINX, the virtual accelerator.

“So the use of this money is pretty much only, very narrowly applied to the development of an accelerator. And this is what we spent the money on, knowing that the cost of an accelerator from a virtual standpoint has been relatively inexpensive, yet we have attracted 20 to 30 start-up companies through AcceLINX over a period of time that have come and gone,” Thallemer said, with 14 to 15 companies now being serviced by the virtual accelerator.

With the federal funds available to help build a physical accelerator, Thallemer said this is the ideal time to move forward on this project.

“Alan and his organization have worked hard to identify that federal grant, and the city has funds to help leverage our funds with the grant that is available,” he said.

Thallemer said the contract has been vetted and asked the Redevelopment Commission to approve it so they can get moving on it.

“This is the last piece of the puzzle for our Technology Park. We’ve got infrastructure. We’ve got an educational partner, who is willing. We’ve got a virtual accelerator that is already established, and we’ve got space for it and we’ve got room then to eventually grow these companies that come through that accelerator,” Thallemer said.

Meyer said the committee of he, Skinner and Tio reviewed the four to five vendors for the project and selected the one they thought was the best for the project, MKM.

Redevelopment Commission Vice President Rick Snodgrass made a motion to approve the contract, and it was unanimously approved.