Galesburg Incubator a Success Story - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Galesburg Incubator a Success Story

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The Galesburg community is calling it a success story. The town was hit hard by plant closings years ago, but is now seeing growth. That is in part, because of a unique business incubator, the Sustainable Business Center.

"This used to be the Carhartt manufacturing facility," Incubator Director Eric Dilts tells us, saying "My ultimate goal is to replace all the jobs we lost when Carhartt went away." He says after two years, the Center is on pace to do that, thanks to tens of thousands of square feet of space and a team ready to find and coach entrepreneurs. "It really goes down to where we think a business can provide a real service to the community, has an excellent chance and growing and creating jobs for the community."

And will make an environmental impact. While there are many incubators in many cities, this one is green. And the idea of sustainability is helping bring in businesses. "A lot of things we do," Siva Akasam says, "We want to align ourselves with partners who are thinking the same way as us for energy, for sustainability." Akasam is a Vice President at Intellihot. The company makes intelligent tankless water heaters, able to be controlled by a smart phone. Since moving into this space two years ago, managers tell us they've hired 8 people and expanded.

We heard the same from reps with Sitka Salmon Shares, a direct to consumer seafood company. Salmon Steward Genevieve Crow says, "We have an office space over there, we have some storage space over there, we've got our big freezer here, and we're looking to expand a little."

Bob Blackburn tells us it's about the space, and the networking. "I have questions sometimes as an entrepreneur, and I go in and knock on the door and they're very accessible. And that's what's so good."  The director here says the tenants are pretty good too. He showed us testing tubes from Blackburn Sampling, widely used by the Environmental Protection Agency. And he says, "Since Bob's been here, he's doubled his space. He's doubled his employees. He's applied for two new patents. One of his patents was just approved."

And one of the Center's tenants just made a big move. Lamboo, Inc. actually moved out. The manufacturer of laminated bamboo outgrew the Center and set up shop elsewhere. It's something Dilts says he'd like all companies to be able to do, be able to grow themselves and Galesburg. "That is our ultimate goal, so we are creating jobs for the community."

Some of those are at Pennycress Seed, used for bio diesel.  Others are at En Season Café, a restaurant the director calls "farm to field". The menu changes daily, and it's not planned until the chef knows what produce or meat is available from area growers. All of it is pesticide free. Plus the kitchen is shared use. That means anyone who wants to produce and market a local fresh food product can rent the space, and get help from the Center and it's chef.

You'll be able to see it all at a Sustainability Fair coming up in April.