William M. Factory named 2005 Incubator of the Year

The William M. Factory Small Business Incubator today was named the 2005 Incubator of the Year in the mixed-use category...

The William M. Factory Small Business Incubator today was named the 2005 Incubator of the Year in the mixed-use category at the National Business Incubation Association’s 19th International Conference on Business Incubation in Baltimore.

The William M. Factory Small Business Incubator (formerly known as the Tacoma-Pierce County Small Business Incubator) helps women, minorities and low-income entrepreneurs create successful businesses as a way to revitalize the local economy, promote job growth and expand the tax base in its east Tacoma neighborhood. Since 1986, the incubator has graduated more than 200 companies; 80 percent of those firms remain in business or have successfully merged.

Business incubation programs like the William M. Factory Small Business Incubator catalyze the process of starting and growing companies by providing entrepreneurs with the expertise, networks and tools they need to make their ventures successful. In 2001 alone, North American incubators assisted more than 35,000 start-up companies that provided full-time employment for nearly 82,000 workers and generated earnings of more than $7 billion.

During the last year, clients at the William M. Factory incubator have created nearly 300 jobs. Most of those jobs benefit residents of Tacoma’s eastside – one of the area’s poorest neighborhoods. “We haven’t lost sight of our constituency,” says Tim Strege, the incubator’s executive director. “The vast majority of our firms are managed by entrepreneurs who would otherwise be unemployed.”

As part of their leases, all incubator clients sign first-source hiring agreements in which they agree to consider unemployed neighborhood residents for available job openings. These agreements create beneficial relationships between the businesses’ growth and the residents’ well-being, says Colleen Barta, business development manager at the William M. Factory incubator.

Kevin Moss, a recent incubator graduate, is one entrepreneur who has made a difference in the community. Northwest Landworks, Moss’ construction site preparation firm, joined the William M. Factory incubator in 1999 with two employees. In 2003, the company won a $12.5 million contract on a city water supply pipeline project, and the company’s full-time employment grew to 14. One employee, a formerly unemployed eastside resident, earned more than $50,000 annually for the first time in his life.

Several East Tacoma community residents started the incubator in a vacant restaurant a few blocks from its current facility. Over the years, the program moved several times into other leased space, most of which was not conducive to client networking, Strege says. Still, each move helped the program reach more disadvantaged entrepreneurs. “Every move was an upgrade,” Strege says. “And with every upgrade, our clients stepped up and performed even better, both because people outside the incubator gave the companies more respect and because the companies held themselves to higher standards.”

In 2003, the incubator moved into its own $3.2 million building designed specifically for incubation, with 30 client offices, more than 100 workstations and four conference rooms. The 20,000-square-foot facility – which also features a fiber-optic communications system, an interior parking garage, and balconies overlooking Mt. Rainier and Commencement Bay – is one of the most technologically advanced office buildings in the Puget Sound region.

In coming years, the William M. Factory program plans to develop an incubator campus with additional facilities to house start-up businesses in various industries. The incubator is now seeking funds and developing plans for an adjacent facility to house technical and scientific services start-ups. “We’re opening the door of the economy to a lot of new entrants, and in the process, we’re enlarging the overall economy,” Strege says. “Our current facility employs over 250 workers; an incubator campus could provide jobs for 1,000 workers or more.”

The National Business Incubation Association is the world’s leading organization advancing business incubation and entrepreneurship. Each year, the NBIA Incubation Awards honor the business incubators, client companies and graduates that exemplify the best of the industry.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related Stories