By John McLoone
The City of Hastings is working to convert the building that now houses the Hastings School District Alternative Learning Center into a business incubator.
City Economic Development Coordinator Eric Maass outlined the plan to the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority at its meeting July 14.
Maass said downtown property owners were surveyed about available business, space among other things. Of 22 responses, there were few vacancies.
“Of those who responded, they haven’t had any vacancies in the last two years,” he said. “There was a lot of positive feedback on the momentum downtown.”
He said city staff knows of eighth vacancies overall in the last two years, and there are currently three business spots available for lease.
“Overall, it’s a very stable downtown, but there’s some opportunities for new businesses,” he said.
Chamber members were sent an entrepreneurial survey to gauge response on the possibility of an incubator building. Three responses to that survey indicated they would be interested in leasing some “brick and mortar” space.
The idea of the business incubator was hatched as a result of the school district vacating the space the city owns at 213 Ramsey Street, directly south of the Hastings Post Office. The alternative learning center is being located to space being remodeled in the Hastings High School building. The school district has been renting the Ramsey Street site for $3,000 monthly.
Maass said that the Doffing Fund will provide $15,000 in grant funding that will be used for designing a business incubator at the site. The incubator is for new businesses who would share the space that would be divided to meet their needs. Maass said there will be “wraparound services” to the businesses who rent there.
“They would meet monthly with a business advisor,” he said.
Staff plans to have a proposal before HEDRA for a vote at its Aug. 11 meeting. Following that, it will launch its “Jump Start the Incubator” program. From Aug. 15 through Sept. 16, businesses who desire to rent there can submit their plan. Three HEDRA members and city staff will then review the information and interview business owners.
The businesses will pay to lease the space, Maass said.
“There will be a lease rate. It’s not free space,” he said.
Tenants could be approved to move into the space by November.
HEDRA Board member and city councilmember Mark Vaughan said that the incubator concept needs to encompass the whole business community, not just downtown.
“I think the incubator thing is too downtown focused. I think we need to move away from that. I think we need to listen to the rest of the community. We need to start looking big picture,” said Vaughan.
Maass replied, “The purpose is to grow and graduate businesses out into the community. It’s not just a downtown incubator. It’s the Hastings incubator.”
HEDRA Board member and city councilmember Mark Vaughn.