As of September 1st, the Flagship Enterprise Center has achieved full occupancy. The incubator’s 10,000 square feet of space is now leased to a total of nine clients with a diverse range of products and services. After being open for less than two years, the ABI has attracted some of Anderson’s most promising and unique businesses. “The concept for Anderson’s business incubator was the result of a study commissioned in 2004 in response to General Motors exodus from the community,” states Linda Dawson, Director of Economic and Community Development for the City of Anderson. “The study found that one of the strongest growth areas for Anderson would be small, entrepreneurial businesses. ABI’s full occupancy proves that this study hit the nail on the head.”
Opening its doors in October 2006 and welcoming its first tenant on January 1, 2007, the incubator has proven to be a valuable resource to the businesses it houses. “Our first client was the screen printing company ID Graphics,” remembers Flagship Enterprise Center Executive Director DeWayne Landwehr. “They moved in on the 1st of January and two days later they had sent out their first shipment and were generating revenue. I always think of that as an example of the great potential the incubator can offer its clients.” By October 2007, the ABI was ready to hold a community open house to display its first six tenants.
“It was an exciting event”, remembers Charles Staley, CEO of Flagship Enterprise Center, “because in just over 6 months, we were able to reach 70% of capacity, with some very promising companies. It has also been rewarding to note that all of these companies are homegrown. The owners live and work here, and have a vested interest in helping the greater community to grow.”
Nearly a year later, the incubator now features nine tenants, each with their own reasons for choosing to set up shop inside the ABI. “Since our move in date of April 1, 2008, we have been able to hire 3 new employees and house our own graphics department,” says Tammy Rimer, Director of Operations at advertising company College Displays. “We love the downtown location, it puts us close to the vendors we use every day and makes for such a quaint and beautiful area to work.”
Freelance writer Tim Kern found the Anderson area and the ABI especially attractive when looking for a home for his public relations company, Tim Kern INK. The appeal was strong enough to cause Kern to relocate from his home in Florida. “I've been in Anderson just a year now, and I've found that my reasons for coming to Indiana from Florida were justified,” says Kern. “Since coming here, I've started an additional new business, and I've hired two part-time workers. I couldn't have done it without the climate in Indiana or the help and encouragement that come with the ABI.”
One of the most unique and successful businesses within the incubator is Personal Service Limousine. “When Randy Willis came to me and said he wanted to start a limousine company in Anderson, I have to admit, I was a little hesitant,” says Landwehr. “He has proven me wrong over and over and continues to set new sales records every month. I think that attests to the quality of business that is coming out of here.” Owner Randy Willis echoes many of the sentiments of other ABI clients. “Our whole experience at the ABI has been more than we could have hoped for,” says Willis. “It has made it possible for us to bring a first class limousine service to Anderson, as well as creating nine new jobs.”
The success of the ABI and its clients, says Landwehr, wouldn’t be possible without the help of the City of Anderson and local government. “The new administration has continued to support the Flagship Center and the Incubator more than we could have imagined,” he remarks. “I don’t know where we’d be without such supportive individuals in our local government.”
Anderson Mayor Kris Ockomon shares his excitement for the Incubator’s success. “ABI’s full occupancy is an indication of the community’s future,” says Ockomon, “a signal that there are small businesses growing in place that have faith in our community. It shows that there is every reason for downtown Anderson to once again become a thriving commercial center filled with independent businesses.”
Created through a partnership between Anderson University and the City of Anderson, the Flagship Enterprise Center serves as a small business incubator and growth stage business accelerator, in additional to providing managerial and technical support the Anderson Business Incubator. Through its client-specific Client Support Program, the FEC helps emerging companies to become independently viable. Located at I-69 and (exit 22) in Anderson, the FEC provides ongoing contact with management consultants, university researchers, student mentoring opportunities and access to capital.