Incubator to grow baby bio businesses

Resources will be pooled to fund the young business incubator.
Thursday, June 17, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:07 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fund raising will begin soon for the Life Sciences Business Incubation Center, a joint effort between MU and the business community to foster biotechnology companies.

Banks, corporations and city governments will all be asked formally in the next 30 to 60 days to help fund the incubator. If a $2.5 million grant from the Economic Development Administration comes through, stakeholders in the project will have a limited amount of time to match the funds. The EDA, which is part of the federal Department of Commerce, is reviewing the project.

Surrounding counties stand to benefit from the economic development, Project Director Jake Halliday said at a presentation last Wednesday for Regional Economic Development, Inc. The counties that make up the Mid-Missouri Regional Planning Commission — Boone, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Howard and Moniteau will be asked to finance the project.

“Everyone is recognizing the benefits and wants to do their fair share in jump-starting the program,” Halliday said. “We’re not just thinking Columbia here. We’re thinking Fayette, we’re thinking California, we’re thinking about the communities across the area.”

Mary Hill, director of economic development in Fayette, said she is excited about the possibilities. “We know all the towns surrounding the incubator will be positively affected,” Hill said.

The regional concept is something REDI board members had not heard.

“The neat new component that I heard for the first time today is the regional concept. I think that’s outstanding,” REDI member Dave Griggs said.

The city of Columbia has no official involvement in the plan yet, although it was a co-applicant on the EDA grant.

The total cost for the building, including the value of the land, is $7.9 million. In addition to matching the EDA grant, another $1.3 million is also needed. The rest of the money is already on hand, coming in part from federal funding.

“I believe we can satisfy EDA’s concerns about the availability of the matching funds,” said Halliday.

The incubator will provide “intensive care facilities” for young companies, such as laboratories and offices for research. It will also provide mentoring programs in management, finance, marketing and capital formation.

At the incubator, companies can further develop their ideas, and after three to four years, the company, strong enough to stand on its own, can “graduate.” The hope is that businesses will then choose to relocate to Columbia or surrounding areas and create a technology industry cluster.

“We would grow our own companies ... and anchor them right here,” said Halliday. “Basically the incubator converts the research investment into economic benefits.”

The incubator will be built next to the MU Research Reactor off Providence Road. Bidding is projected for February 2005 with construction expected to take around a year.

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