Lease signed for SpringBoard business incubator

BELLEFONTE — The lease has been signed and $4,000 has been donated to help start SpringBoard, a startup business incubator that will open in Bellefonte in the coming months.

On Thursday, Nov. 17, First National Bank President William Joseph presented a $3,000 check to the board of Bellefonte Keystone Community Development Association, also known as BelleKey, during the nonprofit organization’s annual meeting. The incubator will serve as an open office environment for new entrepreneurs looking to get their businesses started.

“I think the co-spacing idea is an absolutely wonderful thing,” Joseph said. “Entrepreneurship is extremely important to the bank.”

Another donation of $1,000 will be coming from the Bellefonte Eagles Club, and the county has also offered to help fund the project with an allocated $60,000. It has not yet been determined what the total cost may be for the project, which includes marketing efforts and making some modifications to the incubator’s facility, BelleKey coordinator Vana Dainty said to The Express. At a previous Bellefonte Borough Council meeting, Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins said that since incubators are expensive, $60,000 is only a small portion of what the project will cost.

SpringBoard, BelleKey’s brainchild, has been a year in the making, and it will still be awhile before the space can open, according to Rod Beard, BelleKey board president. In earlier talks at Bellefonte Borough Council meetings, the target date has been discussed as sometime in early 2017.

Finding a facility for the incubator space was the project’s first step, which has recently been accomplished.

After looking at various facilities over the year, BelleKey came upon a landlord who was willing to work with the organization, Beard said. It has been determined that SpringBoard will be housed within a 14,040-square-foot building located at 120 S. Water St., which is situated across from Bellefonte’s Talleyrand Park.

According to Claudia Alberton, an architect who has been working on plans for the space, the facility will allow for eight permanent workstations, along with smaller drop-in workspaces. The incubator should hold around 15 entrepreneurs and the facility’s interior will have a semi-industrial feel and “fun finishes.”

The next steps for the project are to continue to gain public and corporate support, financial and otherwise, Beard said. Currently, BelleKey is generating a list of potential stakeholders for the incubator.

In the community, BelleKey, which is made up of an 11-member board of directors, is responsible for several other efforts to enhance the town of Bellefonte. Last November, the nonprofit held Bellefonte’s first “Small Business Saturday,” and will be holding it again this year, according to Dainty.

Around Valentine’s Day this year, BelleKey was responsible for the “I Love My Downtown” initiative for downtown businesses. Dainty said the organization also coordinated “Independent Business Owners Week” in July, and in September, it helped coordinate a large grand opening of several local businesses that had opened within the previous nine months.

It is BelleKey’s mission to advocate for the historic and architectural heritage of the town of Bellefonte and to promote a downtown that is both vibrant and economically viable.

Beard said, “Our goal is to just continue to put the pieces in place so the tide can float all boats a little higher.”