After more than six months of preparations, SpringBoard, a Bellefonte business incubator, opened on Thursday with a ceremony attended by more than 50 local and state politicians, stakeholders and residents.
SpringBoard is organized by the Keystone Community Development Association (Belle Key) in conjunction with the Centre County Board of Commissioners. It is the sixth business incubator in the county.
After being vacant for more than 20 years, the former Big Trout Inn located across from Talleyrand Park has been renovated to offer entrepreneurs a physical location to begin or grow their business. Tenants have 24 hour access to a conference room, kitchenette, computers, photo copiers, desks and other basic office supplies.
The incubator cost more than $60,000 to complete, but in December the project received financial help from the Centre County government when the board of commissioners unanimously voted to offer $18,000 to kick start SpringBoard.
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Aside from the daily duties of the Centre County commissioners, each board member focuses on an area in which he feels his leadership can benefit the county. Commissioner Mark Higgins focuses on economic development and has helped incubators in the county get their start.
Business incubators serve as an “ecosystem” for businesses to not only begin, but to thrive and grow, Higgins said.
“When I said to my friends in the entrepreneurial community that I thought Bellefonte would be a good spot for the next incubator, they said I was crazy,” Higgins said. “But here we are.”
As the project was taking shape and the building remodeling project was nearing completion, Belle Key was struggling to find office furnishings for SpringBoard, but the organization received an unexpected donation from a local entrepreneur.
Jim Erickson, president of Blue Mountain Quality Resources, a State College-based company that develops software for pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies, donated 10 work stations to SpringBoard.
Higgins said Blue Mountain’s donation put the finishing touches on a building that will be home to some of the future job creators in Centre County.
A desk at SpringBoard can be rented for $250 per month, and for $150 per month an aspiring entrepreneur can rent common spaces that vary on a daily basis. Higgins said SpringBoard is accepting applications and the first four tenants will receive free parking in the borough’s municipal lot near the train station.