Guest Blog Post by Tim Strege, Executive Director, The William Factory
The William Factory Small Business Incubator has a vision to build and sustain an “Innovation & Employment Campus” that connects disadvantaged individuals with entrepreneurship and desirable jobs.
Located adjacent to Interstate 5 within the economically distressed East Tacoma community in Washington State, the Incubator has a 28-year track record of nurturing firms through their formative years by providing advisory and professional assistance in technology sophisticated facilities.
The Incubator historically focused on the specialty trade construction cluster – a “good fit” for workers who no longer had gainful employment after Tacoma lost over 10,000 manufacturing jobs during the 1980s. Recently, with critical support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Incubator completed a “Phase II” Scientific & Technical Services Incubator to grow information technology oriented companies.
Among the recent graduates are Juli Norris & Tanya Stack, owners of Chi-Chack, which provides language translation services for federal agencies and private parties; disabled veteran Roger Lyons of Lyons Technology, which installs technology in the financial sector; and Greg Stewart of Orbiter, which combines radio frequency devices with software for military fitness programs, research projects and inventory control. These firms continue to grow commercial revenues and support the productivity of others that use their products and services.
These and other Incubator clients have benefited from a model that:
- Leverages knowledge, skills and experience of Incubator staff and professional mentors to provide a comprehensive tool-kit to help entrepreneurs successfully build and grow their business.
- Adheres to “best practice” standards for operating Incubator programs while pioneering new standards as needed in the areas of technology, shared services/facilities, networking and advocacy.
- Expands and/or strengthens First Source Hiring Agreements with public agencies to increase job opportunities for low income, unemployed and other disadvantaged area residents.
- Builds and/or strengthens collaborative agreements with area technical schools and universities.
- Focuses on the development and application of business clusters that offer the best opportunity for significant impact on economic vitality.
Importantly, the William Factory Incubator serves a diverse clientele of minorities including Native American, women and recent immigrants. Liya Djamilova, a first generation American, graduated from the Incubator with a legal services company, which provides immigrants with status to start their own enterprises. It is this inclusive economic competitiveness that will support future economic gains.
Rather than creating walls that prevent low asset entrepreneurs from advancing in the commercial marketplace, incubators allow the sharing of advanced technology and high-end resources that stimulate expansion of small firms that ultimately is the source of job creation.