Economic development agency looking for new businesses for incubator space

Published 3:22 pm Sunday, October 1, 2023

With recent growth and relocation of some businesses, and the retirement of the owner of another, the Albert Lea Business Development Center is again open for several new tenants to join the incubator in the Northaire Industrial Park.

The Business Development Center was created in 2002 to enhance the economic development focus in the community and to assist in developing local startup business and industry.

Noelle Hagen, assistant executive director of the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency, said the goal of the incubator space is to give rising entrepreneurs a space that is cheap and easy to access that they can use as a stepping stone for growth to another location.

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Some of the success stories of the incubator include the Albert Lea Gymnastics Club, which recently moved to another location with more space, Daisy Blue Naturals and Granny’s Legacy Patterns, to name a few.

The current tenants include Crescent Electric, which Hagen described as an anchor tenant, along with Crossfit Innerdrive and Granny’s Legacy Patterns. In recent years, the incubator has also housed Grandma’s Gourmets, the United Way of Freeborn County and Scott’s Office Products.

Grandma’s Gourmets and the United Way have moved to other locations, and the owner of Scott’s Office Products has retired.

Hagen said the building has a variety of space available, including both office and manufacturing space. The vision of the board is to fill the bigger manufacturing spaces and pair them with an office.

She said last month at the ALBDC meeting they talked about what kinds of users they may want at the site. They decided they want to keep it open for new small businesses that are looking to take their next big step.

In addition to getting the space itself to use, tenants also receive guidance with business planning and meet with ALEDA staff annually.

Businesses have access to a meeting room as needed, as well as access to a loading dock for deliveries on the north side of the building.

Available space includes a large office space most recently used by United Way, as well as another office space last used by Albert Lea Select Foods for offsite interviews during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Albert Lea Gymnastics Club was using two larger spaces, and Scott’s Office Products had a smaller space.

There is a commercial kitchen that has been cleaned and contains a wash sink, refrigerator, ovens, stainless steel countertops and metal racks.

She said they would consider adding additional equipment as needed.

There is also the space that was last used as the lab for Daisy Blue Naturals.

Hagen said the goal of the incubator is to break even on costs. Tenants pay a reduced rent that includes costs of utilities and snow removal. The only other expense tenants have to pay for is phone and internet.

“We want to make sure that the all-inclusive rate is helping their business grow,” she said.

If there is any extra money that comes in, it goes to support extra programming for entrepreneurship, as well as the business plan recognition program.

The incubator was originally constructed as a spec building with a total of 41,250 square feet. After Greater Jobs and the Albert Lea Port Authority came together under ALEDA in the early 2000s, Hagen said they drew up plans to turn it into an incubator.

Once businesses have reached the next level and they are able to move to a new location, the organization continues to work with the business owners, as she said there is funding ALEDA and the city can provide at that phase.