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City may offer a hand to startups

The Rosemount Port Authority has made it a goal to increase the quantity and quality of business and employment opportunities in Rosemount. As part of the goal the commission is considering a business incubator project.

To explore the goal the port authority asked staff to put together a small group.  Resident Tom Luing already has volunteered to assist the commission in starting the endeavor.

While no one gave the impression they are ready to start a program immediately, all seven commissioners expressed interest in seeing what the small group could come up with.

City administrator Dwight Johnson said business incubators are intended to provide entrepreneurs and fledgling businesses a boost toward success that will ultimately add value and jobs to the community. He said businesses start in the home or coffee shop and then need a space to continue to grow. One goal of an incubator program could be to provide a space businesses could use to continue their growth. Then, as they succeed, they will find a permanent space in the community to do business.

A number of communities have similar programs, including Inver Grove Heights and Northfield. The programs differ in what they offer, but the goal of helping small businesses succeed remains the same. Incubators can be located within existing businesses or in underused commercial spaces.

Commissioner Robert Leuth, who has experience with such a project, said it can even be as significant as building a facility.

Leuth contacted a number of organizations including DCTC and established businesses in the community to see if they were interested in talking about starting such program.

There was some willingness to have conversations, Leuth said.

The creation of the group only means the port authority is exploring the idea. Johnson said there are a number of questions the group will need to answer, including where such a program could be based, what resources would be made available, requirements for businesses to use the program and what the public cost could potentially be.

Community development director Kim Lindquist said the city hasn't had a lot of requests for service like this and said the city will have to market the program to drum up interest. Lindquist said the city currently lacks available square footage for business to move into.

Commissioner Matt Kearney acknowledged there would be some hurdles for the program but said he supported putting a group together to explore the idea.

Commissioner Carl Peterson said to go forward it will be important to establish partnerships but also said he thought the idea had potential.

"Maybe it's a way of putting resources together," said Peterson.

Mayor Bill Droste warned that there are other organizations that provide similar services and that the city should not compete with others.

After coming to a consensus that small group should be established, Leuth agreed to serve on the small group.

Johnson said once staff flushes out a clearer plan, they will bring the topic back to the commission.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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