Fruita, Business Incubator study partnership

Though still just an idea under preliminary discussion, the city of Fruita and the long-standing Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction seem keen on bringing some kind of small-businesses development facility to the lower Grand Valley.

Fruita City Manager Clint Kinney recently updated City Council members about some initial conversations he’s had with incubator officials, in which the two talked about potentially placing either a satellite office or a Fruita version of the incubator in the city.

The nonprofit Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction has been helping small businesses launch their local operations since 1987. They offer resources at reasonable rates, including a commercial kitchen, workshops and classes, leased space, small-business financing, tax credit administration and other types of assistance.

“The concept that we’ve talked about is the city potentially supplying space, and (the Incubator) would provide the resources that businesses need to start up,” Kinney told the council.

“Hopefully we could get 10 or 12 businesses — one- or two-person shops — and then if they expand or are successful, then they’re already here and they would presumably stay,” he said.

Kinney stressed that the concept isn’t much beyond the idea stage at this point, but some kind of partnership between the two would not be unusual. In 2011, Fruita city leaders created a revolving loan fund offered through the Business Incubator Center, intended to provide Fruita businesses with cash to expand, purchase equipment or fund new operations.

Another connection is the current executive director of the organization, Jon Maraschin, a Fruita native who said in an email that he “would absolutely love to see a partnership which helps move the community forward.”

“This has been a recurring conversation for both Fruita and Grand Junction and is something that we think would be great if we can find a way to execute it so that it will be successful,” Maraschin wrote. “Needless to say, now might be the right time.”

He said his organization is in a “feasibility study phase” about the idea and will soon conduct some surveys and interviews to gauge general interest in Fruita.

“My worst nightmare would be to establish a program that fails to work, loses money and damages our core organization. We are doing our due diligence on this to make sure it is well supported by the community and has a chance of success before we move forward,” he wrote, further saying that he was “quietly optimistic” about the idea.

Kinney slowed a bit as well, calling the project “all conceptual at this point.” He did say, though, that $100,000 recently set aside by the council for downtown improvements could conceptually go toward a project like this.

If it comes to fruition, the idea could have a big impact on Fruita’s business community. The incubator claims on its website the launch of more than 200 companies with generated revenue upwards of $137 million, the creation of nearly 9,000 jobs, and the investment of $50.6 million in capital into the local economy.


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