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Business Incubation Space Concepts in Rural Appalachia


Recently, a committee of interested community members met to explore the concept of a business incubator in Ironton, Ohio. While discussing some potential downtown locations, they made a decision to test the idea of business incubation services at Ohio University Southern located outside of downtown Ironton. The idea of testing the concept is not a new idea as the LIGHTS Regional Innovation Network uses the Business Model Canvas model that requires an entrepreneur to test an idea before doing a full launch.

The main components of the service side of business incubation include providing direct consulting services to clients; offering training around team development, accounting principles, and ideation/validation of new business ideas; providing for networking opportunities with customers and with one another; connections to venture capital, angel investment, and more traditional bank financing; and, access to some space for the entrepreneur to launch their concept.

A few of our Innovation Gateways provide these services and facilities.

Innovation Center at Ohio University

BB2C Epicenter in Marietta

When determining what needs to be in an incubator space, planners should consider:

  1. Who will use the space? Will entrepreneurs need biotechnology labs? Will they need equipment to build prototypes (eg wood, metal, plastic, 3D printed)?

  2. Open or closed spaces? Do entrepreneurs expect privacy for their client interactions?

  3. Will they have a place to think and explore their ideas? A must in any location is whiteboards, whiteboards, whiteboards!

  4. Do they need conference rooms with board-style tables to make pitches to potential investors or to secure clients? Will they need projectors to make presentations? What kind of technology will work best for them?

  5. What resources do you have available to buy equipment? Lease space? Do something small at first to test the concept and then grow to meet the demand.

Lab space and office space at the Innovation Center

ACEnet in Athens, OH

Additional innovation facilities in the region are privately run and operated including Athens Works, Incswell, and CoWorks. Visit their websites for more information. These coworking spaces provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to drop in, learn from one another, find mentorship opportunities, and, attend networking events. Additionally, they provide great downtown revitalization starts as they often locate in vacant properties.

Laser Cutter at the Idea Lab

Members using the tools offered at the IDEA Lab at Zane State College

With over 10 years of experience in business incubation facilities management and design, the LIGHTS staff can help you think through your future incubation space requirements. We can help you ask the right questions when selecting a consultant for feasibility studies. Email us at lights@ohio.edu.

CoWorks in Huntington, WV


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LIGHTS Regional Innovation Network

(740) 593-2439

Voinovich School of Leadership & Public Affairs
Circle Drive, The Ridges, Athens OH 45701

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