Banner Staff Writer
The Cleveland Bradley Business Incubator recently received a grant to help it expand services to the local business owners renting space within the walls of its two facilities located at Cleveland State Community College.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded the incubator with a Rural Business Enterprise Grant in the amount of $6,576.
Hurley Buff, executive director of the CBBI, said the grant money will be used to fund a “two-pronged project” that has been on the minds of people there since the application for the grant was submitted in January. The first goal will be to offer educational classes and technical assistance to its tenants, and the second will be to raise public awareness of the incubator and the more than 40 small businesses renting space there.
“This is good for both us and our tenants,” Buff said.
To work toward the first goal, Buff said the incubator would use the money to pay for bringing in business professionals to teach topics on subjects like social media and search engine optimization.
The Tennessee Small Business Development Center, also occupying office space on campus, offers small business-related workshops to the general public. However, Buff said these will focus solely on the needs of the incubators’ tenants and they will have more input into the types of things they want to learn.
The second goal is to go out into the community and let people know more about the incubator and the tenants therein. That should help the businesses receive more customers and have a positive impact on the incubator as a whole, he said.
“We just want to reach out to the community to try and increase awareness that we’re here,” Buff said.
Two incubator tenants are slated to be involved with the newly funded projects. Dana Teasley, who owns a company called Local Strategies, will serve as the project manager for the incubator’s new efforts to assist tenants in-house and promote them within the community. The staff of another business, Simon J Marketing, will be working to produce television commercials and the like to promote the incubator and its businesses.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement the Rural Business Enterprise Grants were part of his department’s commitment to fostering small business outside the larger cities normally considered to be centers for business.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the economy in small towns and rural communities, just as they are in our biggest cities,” Vilsack said.
The local business incubator was one of nine grant recipients in the state of Tennessee and one of two in Bradley County. The Charleston-Calhoun-Hiwassee Historical Society in Charleston was the other local recipient. The USDA awarded it $20,000 to go toward the Hiwassee River Heritage Center.
Melissa Woody, vice president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, spoke about the grant at last week’s Charleston City Commission meeting. She said then the grant would allow the center to purchase needed items like chairs for a meeting area as well as projectors, computers and monitors.
The Cleveland Bradley Business Incubator allows small business owners to rent office and manufacturing space housed in its original building and more recent Innovation Center building, both adjacent to the Cleveland State campus. New tenants pay rent costs that correspond with the number of years they have been in business, rising each year until a “graduation” four years later.
The incubator celebrates its 13th year in Cleveland this July.