County Mayor William Baird said that Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl will be in Campbell County on February 15 to formally announce a nearly $300,000 ARC grant to fund a business incubator. The event begins at 12 noon at Roane State Community College’s (RSCC) campus in LaFollette.
The February 15 celebration culminates nearly four years of “working on and talking about” the incubator, according to Baird.
Over the past several years, Baird said that he has visited a number of incubators in Tennessee – Nashville Business incubation Center, East Tennessee State University’s Innovation Lab and RSCC’s joint venture with Cumberland County in Crossville. He also participated in the “Tennessee basic Economic Development Course” offered by the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Public Service.
Baird said these activities reinforced his belief that Campbell County could benefit from a similar effort, geared to his community. Local leaders pursued the grant and were successful, and they have now teamed with a number of organizations to launch the incubation program.
Billie Russell, Economic and Community Development Manager in the Mayor’s Office, said the incubator will initially be housed in the old Board of Education Building. Oak Ridge-based Tech 20/20 and its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth (CEG) will assist entrepreneurs interested in starting companies with Todd Fisher being the point of contact.
Both Baird and Russell said that Ackermann PR in Knoxville has been engaged to conduct a feasibility study for the long-term focus of the incubation effort. Interest is already high among local citizens, particularly those considering starting “lifestyle and service companies.”
Baird said that Campbell County hopes the effort can also benefit entrepreneurs in Claiborne and Scott Counties. In fact, he said Lincoln Memorial University in nearby Harrogate plans to offer business courses.
The initiative is not just for those wanting to start a company immediately. Russell said there would be a focus on youth and added, “It’s just amazing what kids come-up with.”
In addition to the announcement featuring Gohl, the organizers also plan an exhibition by area manufacturers and a “Career Coach” session with the State Department of Labor. These will be in the 12 noon to 2 p.m. period.
For those interested in learning more about the program or planning to attend, contact Russell at 423/562-2526.