County Commission to receive grant for business incubator

Published 3:47 pm Thursday, March 28, 2013

Frank Dobson explains to members of the Marengo County Commission, Brenda Tuck and Kathryn Friday how the grant process will work and the timetable that they are looking at for the funds.

Frank Dobson explains to members of the Marengo County Commission, Brenda Tuck and Kathryn Friday how the grant process will work and the timetable that they are looking at for the funds.

The Marengo County Commission received a letter from Gov. Robert Bentley on March 20 that said $250,000 has been reserved by the state for the county to convert the closed National Guard Armory in Linden into a business incubator.

The Marengo County Business Development Center is a plan that involves the collaboration of the Marengo County Economic Development Authority, Marengo County’s Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the county commission.

A meeting was held Thursday morning with Brenda Tuck, the MCEDA director; Kathryn Friday, the Marengo County ACES coordinator; Frank Dobson from the Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission; and members of the Marengo County Commission.

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The Armory Commission recently agreed to sell the building to the Marengo County Commission for $125,000. These funds will be from the $250,000 grant from the state, and the county commission has to match $50,000 of it.

Dobson explained the timeline of the grant, saying that it would take two to three months for the funds to become available to the commission.

“The funds are reserved,” Dobson said. “There are certain things that have to be done first to access them. I believe it will be 30 to 45 days to meet the grant conditions, and probably 45 to 60 days to make the few repairs to the building. This should be an easy project though.”

Dobson added that this is the first incubation project in the state in five years.

The program will be managed and operated by the MCEDA. Tuck, has twelve years experience in the management and operation of a rural small business incubator.

They will work with business start-ups to ensure they have a comprehensive business plan, assistance with the proper resources and a place to begin operations. All of this provides an environment that fosters success, and success equals job creation.

MCEDA is governed by a 19-member board, consisting of representation appointed from all 8 municipalities within Marengo County, the county commission and the industrial development boards. The board is in full support of this partnership and is excited to assist in job creation through entrepreneurship and small business development with this project.

“We are very excited about this project,” Tuck said. “We know the funds don’t happen overnight, and we feel like we’re right on schedule.”

The armory itself offers a large meeting space, which, once open, will be the largest in the county. There is space for seven incubators on the property as well. Five of them will be office space, one is the kitchen, and one is a separate building in the back of the property that will be used by a group helping farmers. The kitchen will be available for people to rent to fry or bake things for their business if they don’t have access to commercial kitchen equipment.

Dr. Walter Davis, chairman of the Linden Economic Development Board, said this collaboration will be a great opportunity, not only for Linden and Marengo County, but for the region.

“It’s going to be beneficial to those who want to get started in business,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity, and it’s what we need in this area to help draw in businesses. This is an outstanding facility and Brenda has worked extremely hard to make all this work.”

Fair market value will be established per square foot for each office that can be rented to an entrepreneur or small business. In the first year, businesses will pay no more the one-third of the fair market value. In the second year, they will pay no more than two-thirds of the fair market value, and in the third year, they will be expected to pay full market value.

James E. Pritchett, Lt. Col., Ret., spent 13 years at the armory in his career, and he is happy to see the building being put to good use. Pritchett is now 89 years old, and he served in the Army Air Corp in the European Theatre in World War II.

“It’s great to see the facilities continue to play a key role for the residents of Marengo County,” he said. “After my first-hand experience of knowing how much was gained from having the National Guard nearby, I am grateful to know that the facilities will continue to enhance the lives of our community through the focus of economic development. I am grateful to know that our community will continue to use the facilities in such a productive manner.”