PEMBROKE — The public recently got a first view of construction plans for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s entrepreneurship incubator that will be built on Main Street in downtown Pembroke.
“The purpose of this project is to promote and create businesses,” Kyle Carter, the university’s chancellor, told about 50 university staff, business and community members gathered in the 17,000-square-foot building at 202 Main South that will be renovated to house the incubator and offices for two university business development programs — the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship and the Small Business and Technology Development Center. “We hope to turn this into an economic stimulus not just for Pembroke, but for the larger community.”
Carter launched the Downtown Development Project in February 2012 with the purpose of achieving several goals: support of small and start-up businesses; bringing the university and town of Pembroke closer together; improving Pembroke’s downtown; and giving UNCP students hands-on experience in business and entrepreneurship.
“This will have an immediate impact on the downtown,” Carter said. “It will be an attractive building. It will give the downtown a new look.”
The university was able to purchase the building and will pay for renovations through two grants and more than $200,000 in private donations. The largest grant was for $932,000 from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, with an additional $200,000 coming from the state’s Golden LEAF Foundation.
Carter and other university officials praised Cammie Hunt, the university’s vice chancellor for Engaged Outreach, for successfully writing the grant that eventually resulted in the university receiving the federal money.
“It was a long process,” Carter said. “It took three applications to get everything the way the EDA wanted it.”
According to Carter, the development of the incubator is one of UNCP’s major efforts to become involved in the local community.
“This is a tangible way for the university to reach out to the community and establish a foothold,” he said. “… This will help the local economy. Students and faculty will eat in nearby restaurants and shop in local stores.”
Ken Kitts, UNCP’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said that the incubator will open up vast opportunities for both students and faculty.
“The magic is not only the location of services, but the expertise that is available,” Kitts said. ” … The businesses will grow and after two or three years will move out of the incubator into their own place and grow.”
University say the official groundbreaking for the project will be in August, with the incubator opening its doors in August 2015.
“Looking at the conceptual models, I’m excited,” said Cathy Graham, executive director of Robeson County’s Cooperative Extension Office. “I’m excited and looking forward to the project’s fruition.”
Ryan Nance, executive of COMtech industrial park, said that business incubators can help create and establish successful business. He said that COMtech will soon be applying for similar EDA grant to establish an incubator on its property.
“But it will be a different style business incubator,” he said. “It will be targeted more to light industry where this one is more academic.”
Michael Menefee, the university’s Thomas Family Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship, said that he is looking forward to being housed in the new complex with the incubator and the Small Business and Technology Development Center.
“These businesses will probably be more service- and retail-oriented,” he said in reference to the kind of business that will be launched in the new facility. “These will not be permanent businesses located here. This will be where ideas for new businesses are launched, and we will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with the entrepreneur.”
Bob Shiles works for Civitas Media as a staff writer for The Robesonian.