The Village Incubator
The Village Incubator initiative relates to the MAP Initiative 4, “Creating Attractive and Desirable Places.” This initiative relates specifically to Action 13, “Create incentives to achieve development priorities.” Although the Village fosters a combination of both start-up and developed businesses, this area still is not frequented on a day-to-day basis by the majority of RNC residents and the Ball State students. While only a five-minute walk from campus and accessible by both university shuttle and MITS bus, many students prefer spending their time at the dining halls or at other campus amenities. By creating a Village incubator, students and young professionals will have a space where they can receive professional advice and networking to help grow their start-up ventures. When these businesses continue to grow and move out of the incubator, they will have the expertise, networking, and knowledge base to hopefully succeed in the real world or, in this case, the Village.
Why this is important
This initiative was created by the input from residents at a neighborhood meeting. When discussing the strengths and opportunities with neighborhood, one suggestion was a student/professional incubator.
With the Village hosting new businesses within the Village Promenade and surrounding development, many start-up businesses it hopes to attract are either opening up elsewhere or struggling to stay in the Village. This is primarily because the current density and pedestrian traffic does not create enough income to support the current high rents. This incubator will prepare young entrepreneurs and their emerging ventures to succeed in the Village or other locations. According to “Formation of a Business Incubator” by Edward M. Zablocki, start-up ventures that began in an incubator have a 90% chance to survive five years while the average start-up only has a 50% rate of survival. Scholarships or rent negotiations could be potential incentives for businesses graduating from the incubator to stay within the Village. A Village incubator will immediately draw in more students to the area and help work towards making this part of daily student life. If done correctly, the incubator will work as a feeder system to occupy the remaining open storefronts within the Village and along University Avenue.
Figure 1: Village Incubator Interior. Drawn by Matt Skelly
What this will involve
As outlined by the “Formation of a Business Incubator” by Edward M. Zablocki, The four stages listed below are the approximate times that it takes for an incubator project to be developed:
- Feasibility: 3 months
- Development: 9 months
- Renovation: 3-12 months
- Early Stage Operations: 18 months
The first step in creating a Village business incubator is to create community support. Through informing the community on the importance of a business incubator and starting to identify specific entrepreneurs will not only ensure the market for an incubator but also could help identify potential sites, funding sources, project champions from key organizations, and sources of assistance and support, both individual and organizational (Zablocki).
The second step is to identify and secure stakeholders. Incubators are able to receive funding from many different sources. Incubators are primarily run by nonprofits (90%) (Zablocki) with a goal of community development, and are eligible for both local and state government funding. Incubators can also receive funding from both public and private organizations in the form of equity. Through a partnership between the Village and BSU, this incubator could also receive additional funding from the university. In many cases, such as EnterprisedWorks Business Incubator mentioned below, universities fund the development.
Lastly it is important to identify a market niche. There are many different types of business incubators from which an entrepreneur must choose, such as technology-focused companies and biotech companies. Refining the incubator will limit its target market to the small niche that the amenities inside appeal to but will also draw in tenants who want those specific amenities. With the Village’s proximity to the large number of university students along with Muncie’s large population, this proposed incubator should not have to be catered towards any specific type of company.
The residents voted the Village Incubator initiative high priority. RNCNA can start with this initiative, knowing that it is very important to the neighborhood. Although not located in the Village, there is currently an incubator located in RNC. The Innovation Connector’s mission is “to support and accelerate the creation of successful technology based and emerging companies in order to improve the economy of Muncie and east central Indiana.” The Innovation Connector’s contact information can be found below. Due to the presence of this incubator as well as limited student interest, there currently is not enough demand for any new incubator.
Contact information for Funding/Assistance sources
Department of Community Development
300 N. High St. City Hall
Muncie, IN 47305-1639
Fax: (765) 747-4898
Contact: Ms. Terry Whitt Bailey
In order to propose an area for the development of a Village Incubator, a site should be zoned correctly while frequented by enough traffic to support the service. The Village Incubator Zoning Map displays both the future proposed zoning as well as the street types located within the Village. The combination of the two will help determine the most suitable location. With this information available, the most suitable location for development would be in one of the lots currently occupied by parking lots along University Avenue. Below are descriptions of the Street Types and Zoning shown on the map.
Street Types (as defined by the Richmond, Indiana, Comprehensive Plan)
Minor Arterial: This functional class serves trips of moderate length and moderate volumes, usually with a lower design speed than the major arterial. Minor arterial are intended to provide links to and between the major arterial, but have more emphasis on access to adjacent land uses. Ideally, these streets should not penetrate identifiable neighborhoods.
Urban Collector: These streets serve as a link between local streets and arterial streets. Collector streets provide both access and traffic circulation within residential, commercial, and industrial areas. Moderate to low traffic volumes are typical, but they may have slightly wider pavement or design speeds than the local streets
Zoning (as defined by Indy.gov Zoning Synopsis)
Limited Business Zone: (as defined by Miami-Dade County) Retail and service convenience facilities which satisfy the essential and frequent needs of the adjacent residential neighborhood as well as the more specialized commercial facilities which may serve several neighborhoods.
Residence Zone 2: Intended for use in suburban areas to carry out single-family low-density patterns. This district carries a typical density of one and nine-tenths (1.9) per gross acre, which is the most intense development recommended for the very low density classification. Development plans should promote environmental and aesthetic considerations.
Residence Zone 4: Intended for areas of low or medium intensity single-family residential development. Land in this district should have good thoroughfare access, be relatively flat In topography, and be closely associated with community and neighborhood facilities. This district carries a typical density of four and two-tenths (4.2) units per gross acre. This district represents the low density residential classification of the comprehensive general land use plan.
Residence Zone 5: Intended for areas of medium intensity single-family residential development. This district is not intended for suburban use. This district has a typical density of four and five-tenths (4.5) units per gross acre. This district represents the low and medium density residential classification of the comprehensive general land use plan.
Student Social Service Zone: Designed to permit and facilitate the development and expansion of a major university complex or campus requires the logical association of uses, and adequate site compatibility and harmony with the complex. Requires Metropolitan Development Commission approval of all uses, site and development plans
Summary of relevant case studies
Case Study One: EnterprisedWorks Business Incubator
EnterprisedWorks Business Incubator, shown in Figure 2, is a 43,000 square-foot facility located within the Research Park of the University of Illinois. This incubator was named in 2013 as one of Inc Magazine’s “Top 3 College Town Incubators” as well as Forbes “12 Business Incubators Changing the World.” This space aids a wide variety of start-up ventures including biotechnology, chemical sciences, software development, and anything related to material sciences. The University of Illinois funded this project. A project similar to this within the Village will not only allow the university to expand their entrepreneurship program but would also help fill vacancies.
Figure 2: View of the EnterpriseWorks Incubator. Source
Case Study Two: Matchbox
Matchbox, located in Lafayette, Indiana, shown in Figure 3, is a nonprofit business incubator that can house up to 100 clients. Members pay a one-time fee of $99 along with a monthly fee of $30. This was a $1.5 million dollar investment made by Jennie Peterson, project manager for the City of Lafayette’s Economic Development Group along with local nonprofits and the Greater Lafayette Commerce. Plans for this project started in 2012 and opened to the public in April 2014. This development is an example of a project that was developed by a nonprofit group partnering with the city. With this type of incubator located within the Village, both students and the residents of Muncie can work side by side in this business incubator. This could be an important resource to encourage student engagement with the rest of the community while increasing volume down in the Village.
Figure 2: View of the EnterpriseWorks Incubator. Source