County business incubator program may begin this year
— Cecil County may be on its way to establishing an incubator program that would support and encourage entrepreneurship at the grassroots level, officials told county council members Tuesday morning.
“The incubator program could begin this year,” said Cecil County Director of Economic Development Lisa Webb.
The county still has to work out some details and coordinate agreements though, she added, noting that one agreement will be with Cecil College for potential co-working space at Elkton Station.
Cecil County’s Office of Economic Development announced Monday it has created an advisory board to oversee the development of the co-working space for an incubator program and it is seeking a volunteer to serve as a director/navigator, with hopes that the position will evolve into a paid job.
“The advisory board will help us get to the next step,” Webb said.
Members of the new advisory panel are: Webb, Cecil College President Mary Way Bolt, Pat Swoboda of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Frank Cardo of Cecil County Public Schools and Neil Davis of TEDCO, a technology development corporation created by the Maryland General Assembly in 1998.
The entire incubator initiative began about four years ago with volunteer leadership provided by the technology subcommittee of the county’s Economic Development Commission (EDC).
That group hired a firm
to do an incubator feasibility study for Cecil County in 2014, which determined the county had the right conditions for an incubator program to be successful.
Since completing the study, the technology subcommittee has done more homework on other incubator programs through visitations and meetings in an effort to gain information and support.
“We already have a network,” said said Norman Gaither, chairman of the technology subcommittee of the Economic Development Commission, who along with other sub-committee members, briefed the county council on the recent progress on Tuesday.
He noted that they already have a virtual makerspace with APG and a co-working space at Elkton Station.
“Incubators cut red tape out of starting a new business,” Gaither said, as he asked the council to consider financial support in the fiscal year 2018 budget.
Occupants of the co-working space would be required to pay a fee for the space and support to assure they have some “skin in the game,” he said. The co-working space will provide internet access, shared administrative support and navigator advice, he added.
“It looks like you’re kind of bootstrapping this together,” Council President Robert Hodge said, noting that some of CCPS capstone projects might qualify for incubator space in the future. Other council members offered supportive words on Tuesday.
“There’s potential out there,” Councilman George Patchell said. “This would improve the quality of life in our community.”
Carl Roberts, David Linthicum, Danny DeMarinis, Norman Gaither and Mike Lara update the county council on the incubator program.