Reflections and updates

Environmental groups as incubators?

posted 30 Apr 2015, 02:56 by Faith Coleman

We hear a lot of talk of business incubators these days... While Australia's national support of incubation programs ceased in 2008, other countries and communities around the world are embracing these organisations as a way to create wealth and jobs for their citizens, with many incubators being Government funded. In Australia, there are still state and local government incubation programs. 

The theory is that a business incubator helps new enterprises develop by providing  infrastructure and services such as management training, networking, marketing assistance or office space. This seems like a simple offering, yet internationally, up to 85% of incubated businesses become financially viable and stable businesses, in comparison to 80% business failure among non-incubated start-ups.

Like most good ideas, the incubator idea took a while to become popular, with it becoming a 'thing' in the 1970s, yet the first known Business Incubator was established in 
1956, when Massey-Ferguson, the biggest industry in the town of Batavia, New York, closed down. A ghost town of multi-storey buildings was left abandoned. At the time, the Manusco Family purchased the complex and first sought to find a single company to rent the plant. This idea was quickly abandoned and instead, Manusco divided the building and rented it to separate businesses, which the manager decided to nurture by providing shared office services, assistance with raising capital and business advice. The Batavia Industrial Centre remains in operation.

Most of the larger community-run environmental groups that I work with don't think in these terms, however many of them seem to be filling this role, within their communities. Often one successful program will incubate other ideas from within the community, attracting more funding or enterprises to a region.

What value is this to their surrounding communities? How big an influence do these smaller hubs or incubators have on the economy of their district, state or across Australia? Is this something we can encourage and is there a market for it? 

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