Business incubator a fresh idea for JEDC

Posted:  Friday, January 11, 2019 - 8:30am

The Joint Economic Development Committee welcomed Edgecomb resident Roger Ferrell to speak about a project he and the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce are working on – a business incubator.

“I spent 26 years helping people start new things. It's what my wife and I have done our whole lives,” said Ferrell.

A few years ago while in South Carolina, Ferrell was heading up economic development for a nonprofit called bGEN, Business Generation 4 Community Transformation, when he and his team drafted an idea for a business incubator

“About $350,000 later and a building from the city that they donated for free use downtown, we started this thing, hired a full-time manager … and they've got 12 businesses in there, now. They started about 20 total. They're just providing space and help for people who want to start new businesses.”

Ferrell and his family moved here about a year and a half ago to launch Anchor Church, which meets at the Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor. The needs of the Boothbay region are far different from what he encountered in South Carolina, but the model and branding are essentially the same.

While this project can be a number of things, it will most importantly be a rallying point in the region for cooperation between the boards, committees and groups throughout the four towns, Ferrell said.

“I think this is an issue everybody can agree on: that jobs are good, better jobs are better, and keeping our teenagers around or giving them a way to come back is important.”

Farrell and the Chamber have been speaking with Bigelow Labs and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and have begun forming relationships with Boothbay Region Community Resource Council, Maine Technology Initiative (MTI), Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission, Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98, and America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC).

Ferrell said the Chamber has also offered its unfinished upstairs space, free of rent and utilities, for five years. While bGEN does not yet sit under the umbrella of any larger organization or have a budget yet, Ferrell estimates finishing the space gifted to them will likely cost around $45,000, part of a larger budget likely to be around $85,000.

Ferrell sees the incubator as a sort of “hub and spoke” operation: The 800 square feet of Chamber space will be more than enough for offices, conferences and the like, but because business for this region has a variety of needs, incubation centers will likely be spread across the peninsula.

Ferrell said businesses created in a community are usually all about that community.

Said Ferrell, “Make the climate easy for people to start businesses, here. It won't be anything that we do, I think it'll be when people move here: Is there a place for them to live, can they imagine life here, do they have access to lending? … Are regulations too difficult? Do we have workers?”

This article has been updated (Mr. Ferrell’s name is corrected) from its original posting.