New project will help start-up businesses thrive in City of Kenmore

City of Kenmore - Contributed
City of Kenmore
— image credit: Contributed

The development of downtown Kenmore has been a big focus for the city. Kenmore officials hope to rejuvenate and redevelop Kenmore Village with the addition of Kenmore Camera. But drawing new businesses to the area is also an important economic goal for the vitality of the city.

The Kenmore City Council is taking steps to help new businesses start and grow within the city through a Business Incubator project. The pilot program was set in motion during a recent council meeting and will provide low-cost office space and business operation assistance to start-up companies, primarily in the technology field.

“Our short-term plan is to secure interim office space for the next two to three years,” said Kenmore City Manager Rob Karlinsey in his preliminary city budget letter. “In the meantime, we will work to establish a permanent incubator space in the heart of our downtown.”

The city defines the project goals as “to produce successful firms that graduate from the incubation program as financially viable growth-oriented companies.”

“One really important part of this is that it puts us on the radar screen of entrepreneurs,” said Kenmore Assistant City Manager Nancy Ousley, who is in charge of the project. “It shows those who are working out of their homes that the city is willing to invest and help start-ups get off to a good start.”

It is expected that the program will accelerate the successful development of entrepreneurial companies, according to city documents.

The city has hired Barry Weisband, who is the former director for UW Bothell Business Development Center and the Center for Entrepreneurship, to provide program start-up, operation and business consultation for participating businesses through December of next year. According to city documents, Weisband's contract is through 2014 and is to be paid $47,000 for his services from September 2012 to December 2013.

"We will propose an amendment to the contract for the 2014 amount as we have a better idea of the work needed in 2014," said Ousley.

Weisband will provide an important service for the incubator to work.

“It is also important to note that business incubators are not just about providing affordable space with low overhead,” said Karlinsey in the letter. “A business incubator, by definition, includes business development and mentoring for these fledgling businesses. Our proposed incubator program will also include these services.”

The program proposes a three-year lease agreement with Kenmore Commercial LLC for 3,000 square feet of office space in downtown Kenmore at 7204 N.E. 175th St. for the pilot program, with the location, space and price being “appropriate for the intended purpose.”

The city will then lease that space at a reduced cost to the start-ups.

“We don’t know what the offset will be from that part of the project,” said Ousley.

The lease period will begin Dec. 1. The city also has the ability to terminate the lease after two years with 90 days notice.

The program also allows Kenmore to actively peruse opportunities for a long-term incubator program with Bastyr University, the University of Washington Bothell, along with others. Ideally, the leasing program would eventually take place in office space developed in Kenmore Village.

Karlinsey said the city will seek grants and investors to construct a quality, technology-oriented space that will be attractive for new businesses to come to Kenmore and get their start.

The city will also focus on primary industry start-ups that bring in money and jobs to the Kenmore community and export products and services, wrote Karlinsey. The program also aims to grow the city’s natural health industry cluster and high tech and clean technology companies, he said.

The project is proposed to cost the city $238,000 in the 2013-2014 biennium budget, but that does not include revenues received for rental of office space by the start-ups.

The program was first proposed during a September council meeting and funding was approved in the 2013-2014 budget for the program.

The majority of the budget for the project is to go toward leasing the space for the start-ups.

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