Starting a business is great, reinvesting in the community is better

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March 4, 2014
By: Sonja Hegman // Session Daily
Sonja Hegman // Session Daily

 

For those who’ve ever wanted to start a small business, joining a small business incubator could be the way to go.

On Tuesday, the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee heard HF2254, sponsored by Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls), a bill that requests a $950,000 appropriation from the General Fund for a grant to the Neighborhood Development Center for the Small Business Incubator Program. Of that amount, $400,000 would go toward capital improvements to existing small business incubators; $300,000 would be for technical assistance to businesses operating within an incubator; and $250,000 would be for the creation and operation of a small business incubator fund to assist in the acquisition and development of property for additional incubators. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the committee’s omnibus bill. There is no Senate companion.

Mike Temali, founder and chief executive officer of the Neighborhood Development Center, said the small business incubators serve five locations in the inner cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and would like to expand into at least two more locations, if possible. The small business incubators provide entrepreneurship training in five languages, with 82 percent of program participants being of people of color. All buildings in the program were empty before being bought to use as small business incubators and renovated.

“We fill those buildings with entrepreneurs from the neighborhood and it inspires others to start their own businesses,” he said. “Spin off investment happens and crime goes down considerably.”

Currently, there are 120 businesses, employing 360 people, in the five locations. Temali said the tenants pay market rate rent and face eviction if they lapse on rent payments, just like any other business.

Thomas Kim, owner of the Rabbit Hole in Mississippi Global Market in Minneapolis, said he would not have been able to start his business without the help of NDC and the small business incubator.

“They provided me with nontraditional funding and business advice,” he said. He added that The Rabbit Hole is his second business in two years of living in Minneapolis. The other is The Left Handed Cook. “I took small business classes and without (NDC’s) help I wouldn’t have been able to do that.” He now employs 22 full-time and 12 part-time people from the restaurant’s neighborhood, where he also lives.

“This is a reinvestment into neighborhood,” he said. “The support I’ve gotten has been tremendous. I wouldn’t have been able to transition into a 140-seat restaurant without it.”

Courtesy House Public Information Services