The City of Mitchell has taken its first steps toward establishing a business development center in the former city offices.
The city’s comprehensive plan, updated earlier this year, calls for cultivating an environment for entrepreneurship, which could help enhance the local business climate.
Last July, Mitchell announced it would join with the Panhandle Area Development District (PADD) to implement a business incubator over the next several years.
“We’d been discussing economic development with a number of communities, including Gering, about a business incubator,” said Chuck Karpf of PADD. “It was Mitchell who indicated they’d be willing to work with us.”
Since then, Mitchell has done an asbestos abatement study on its old city hall, which was built in the 1920s. The asbestos has been removed and the building is ready to be remodeled.
“Between 25 and 30 people in the community are on an e-mail list and we’ve formed five committees to work on the project,” Karpf said. “We’ve already had two meetings and smaller groups are working on their own.”
Karpf said he envisions seven or eight rentable office spaces or suites for the building, along with two conference rooms and space for business equipment such as copiers. The old bowling alley building, just south of the Nile Theater, is also part of the project.
“Small businesses often need assistance to get on their feet and get operating at a profit,” Karpf said. “We want to make that assistance available in the form of coaching or mentoring and networking with other small businesses and entrepreneurs to get them growing. It’s the same need we’ve had for years.”
He added that many startup businesses fail because they don’t have access to that expertise. “Everybody thinks that money will solve the problem, but money isn’t the only solution.”
Department of Labor statistics have shown that 84 percent of businesses started in a local area stay in that area. That’s why PADD encourages local entrepreneurship.
Major local employers, such as Cabela’s in Sidney and Kelley Bean in Morrill, were started by local people. Such companies would probably not relocate to the area if they were started elsewhere.
Karpf said the Mitchell business development center, also called a business incubator, is a project that will extend over the next two to five years. It will depend on the availability of funds, how much volunteer work is provided and how much money can be raised locally.
Now that the asbestos has been removed from the building, the next step is to get a valuation done, so the value can be used for match funding on grants and for raising funds locally.
Karph said they’re about a year away from starting construction and remodeling the building, depending on how much money they have.