Authorized by Friends of Ahmed, Treasurer David W.Whyte

Thursday, July 1, 2010

City of Bowie, Business Leaders Plan Incubator Help for Start-Ups

Shukoor Ahmed has been a very active board member and Treasurer of Bowie Business Innovation Center. He is actively mentoring many businesses and entreprenuers and extended technical help from V-Empower, Inc. to build their website

Here is an article from today's Gazette:

As many as 10 local startup companies could soon be doing business in leased office space with access to services, as organizers move closer to opening a business incubator at Bowie State University this fall.

The center is an initiative by the city of Bowie in an attempt to develop its entrepreneurial culture and also diversify its business base, which right now relies heavily on retailers and commercial and residential real estate.

To date, the city has committed close to $200,000 to the project, with $109,930 paid to consultant Angle Technology Group for a 2007 feasibility study and subsequent services through February, according to the city manager's office. In March, the City Council extended the Angle contract to run from March 1 through Sept. 30 at a cost of $30,360.

The city has also budgeted an additional $50,000 for the fiscal year that started July 1.

Money coming in for the project so far is a $25,000 grant from the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, a state entity in Columbia that focuses on the commercialization of technology and helping startups.

Creation of the Bowie Business Innovation Center, the nonprofit set up to oversee the center, enables the board to solicit corporate contributions to the program, and talks with businesses about support are already under way, said Lisa Smith, a consultant with the Angle Technology Group who has been working with local organizers to get the incubator up and running.

The board plans to look for professional service companies as tenants, said James Harris, a Bowie attorney who heads the BBIC board, at a public informational meeting about the project Friday at City Hall.

"That's unusual, because most incubators focus on technology," Harris said. "We wanted to have a niche, and also represent underrepresented companies."

Service companies could run the gamut from information technology, finance and telecommunications to government contractors, construction companies, home-based businesses and businesses connected to Bowie State.

Still to be resolved is how much BBIC will pay the university for the space on the second floor of BSU's Center for Business and Graduate Studies building, which opened in 2007, Harris said.

Once that is known, probably by the end of July, the board can decide how much to charge the incoming entrepreneurs for the office space and the services that will be provided by a paid staff, he said.

Services for tenants could include such things as business plan evaluation, market research, financial forecasting and access to office equipment and a conference room, according to organizers.

The BBIC program also plans to accept a number of affiliate, or non-resident, companies, who would pay a lower fee for access to services, but they would not have a space in the building.

The fees to be charged, along with the qualifications for applying, will be posted on the center's website at as decisions are made and information becomes available this summer, organizers said.

"The goal is to select companies that are innovative, growth-oriented businesses," said Smith, who added that the board expects to start soliciting applications by September.

There are no preferences being given to minority-owned businesses or students, who would be considered along with anyone else who met the criteria, Smith said. Depending on their stage of development, student businesses might instead be served by the center's affiliate program, which would still provide mentoring and training but not office space.

Bowie State sees the center as a benefit for its business students, who will have access "to entrepreneurs and their real-world business examples for case studies, class projects, lectures, and seminars," wrote Anthony Nelson, dean of the College of Business in an e-mail.

Students will also have opportunities for internships and part-time and full-time jobs, as well as "an early introduction to entrepreneurship and an opportunity to develop their own businesses," he wrote.

In return, the start-ups will have access "to subject matter experts among BSU faculty and staff, well-educated undergraduate and graduate students, and state-or-the art offices and meeting spaces," Nelson wrote

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