Marketing will be the focus at the town’s fledgling business incubator this year, as officials look to fill office space at LaunchIt Minto with start-up enterprises.
Economic development manager Belinda Wick Graham and economic development assistant Karisa Downey provided council with a review of the first year of incubator operations at the April 7 meeting.
“Our biggest priority this year is going to be filling the spaces in LaunchIt,” said Wick-Graham, noting Innovative Printing, one of the first commercial tenants of the incubator, located at One Elora Street in Harriston, is moving to a larger location in town.
“So they’re one of our success stories,” she stated.
The printing company’s move this May, will leave the incubator with just two tenants, McLaughlin Financial and Triton Engineering, both commercial tenants as opposed to “member tenants” or start-ups.
Treasurer Gordon Duff said the commercial tenants have helped make up for a lack of “incubator” businesses renting the facility so far.
“We didn’t get as many incubator tenants, but when it was envisioned we didn’t have all the commercial tenants so it’s, on balance, roughly where a start up would be.”
The 2014 budget for the facility projected $3,000 in revenue from member tenants and $7,775 in revenue from other tenants. Actual figures show more than $9,000 in revenue from other tenants.
Wick-Graham pointed out the facility has been busy hosting educational events and community meetings.
“It has been accommodating a ton of meetings. It’s really become a hub,” she said.
Downey noted various networking, coaching, training and mentorship programs offered at LaunchIt are also proving popular.
“That’s really exciting to see, that people are taking advantages of the services,” she said.
Downey said a video promoting the facility, created with the assistance of funding from Wellington County, plus shorter videos focusing on testimonials from LaunchIt tenants, will be part of upcoming marking efforts. Wick-Graham noted the facility is ideally placed to provide training and educational programs to businesses located in north Wellington and southern Huron counties and said staff will “be reaching out to make sure people know what we have available to them.”
Duff said that financially, LaunchIt generated a small surplus over budget in 2014, largely due to about $3,500 in revenue from hosting a summit for other incubator operators and the county’s $4,800 sponsorship contribution to the promotional video.
The incubator reported $89,353 in revenue in 2014 and incurred expenses totaling $82,097, posting a surplus of $7,255. That’s roughly double the $3,500 surplus projected in the budget.
Wick Graham noted the Town of Minto and Minto Chamber of Commerce are the primary partners in the venture. The town contributed $30,000 to incubator revenues and the chamber provided $12,000. Other major income sources included a $10,000 grant from Wellington County’s localized business retention and expansion program and an $18,750 federal Rural Economic Development grant. Incubator summit revenue accounts for about $3,400 of the total and courses and seminar revenue totaled just over $500.
Major expenditures included roughly $30,000 in wages and benefits, $14,500 for rent, $8,751 for building renovations and $6,670 for computer and website expenses.
Duff pointed out a considerable portion of this year’s expenditures, such as building renovations, can be attributed to start-up costs which won’t be a factor going forward.
Wick-Graham announced that current chair Glen Hall will continue to chair the LaunchIt board of directors in 2015. The new board consists of Hall, Wick-Graham, Mayor George Bridge, councillor Mary-Lou Colwell, chamber representative Ralph Drost, Nicola McEwan of the Minto Cultural Roundtable, Hope Robertson of the Minto economic development planning committee, at-large community members Calvin Frey, Ryan Koeslag and Justin McIntosh and business development co-ordinator Somer Gerber.