Second biggest incubator turns 10

AUSTRALIA’S second largest business incubator has turned 10 and wants to increase its reach.

The Midland Enterprise and Arts Centre, that has brought 115 businesses into the world, will celebrate its 10th anniversary with an open day on November 14.

It is the biggest incubator in a network including the Bassendean New Business Centre and the Ellenbrook Development Centre.

The network operates under the Eastern Region Business Enterprise and Art Centre banner.

ERBEAC executive officer and Midland centre CEO John Rogers said the incubators provided a range of services to first-time business starters and expanding home businesses such as on-site business advice and full secretarial services.

“All of the feedback we’ve received indicate incubators are very important,” Mr Rogers said.

“Incubators help reduce start-up risks – one of the biggest constraints to business start ups – because they don’t lock their tenants into long-term leases or contracts.”

The network is planning for an expansion into Internet services and the provision of seed capital. It is investigating a number of small US start-up funds.

“Start up capital is one of the critical issues for businesses that come to us,” Mr Rogers said.

“Bad management and undercapitalisation are probably the two biggest causes of business failure. We can help with the former and soon hope to be able to assist with the latter.”

Mr Rogers said the ERBEAC believed creating a network would help keep small business incubators viable.

“There are some very good examples of successful incubator networks operating in the US,” he said.

Mr Rogers said the more businesses the ERBEAC had under management, the more services it could provide.

“We haven’t had Government funding since 1996. We fund all of the services we run ourselves,” he said.

One of those services includes the provision of a trainer who creates a small business management plan for each tenant and provides ongoing training.

“The people who come to us are fairly serious about getting their business off the ground,” Mr Rogers said.

“We expect them to at least have a business plan when they start. If they don’t we help them prepare one. We work with them to ensure they are ready to move into commercial tenancies.”

While the majority of the incubators’ tenants offer business services, there are some light manufacturing operations such as furniture makers and craftsmen.

Two of the Midland Enterprise Centre’s better known graduates include steel artist Lee Potter and Classic Stone’s Ken Cooper.

Mr Rogers said the Midland Redevelopment Authority’s plans were likely to breathe new life into Midland’s business community.

“But Midland has always had a strong relationship and link with the country areas. It has provided a lot of services to the agricultural and mining communities and will continue to do so,” he said.

“That focus is reflected in the Midland centre which has housed a lot of consultants in those areas – usually ex-government employees who’ve decided to go into business for themselves.”

Relocation is on the Midland centre’s agenda as its home is within one of the areas the MRA has earmarked for redevelopment.

Mr Rogers said the centre would look for new premises that allowed it to offer special spaces for agribusiness, food processing businesses and information technology and telecommunications companies alongside its general incubators.

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