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MailTribune.com
  • Sustainable Valley incubator could set standard

    The incubator may be in vanguard locally for offering expertise, aid to new businesses
  • When the Sustainable Valley business incubator set up shop above U.S. Bank in downtown Medford last spring, there was plenty of talk about its long-term benefits.
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  • When the Sustainable Valley business incubator set up shop above U.S. Bank in downtown Medford last spring, there was plenty of talk about its long-term benefits.
    While the incubator's financial impact is still years away, Sustainable Valley could lay claim to being a trendsetter. With the Job Council, Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. and the Intergovernmental Regional Solutions agency headed downtown in the coming weeks, there is hope an entrepreneurial revival will follow.
    From entrepreneurial concept to revenue-producing startup, the idea is for one supporting agency or another to provide expertise and assistance to new and evolving businesses, said SOREDI Executive Director Ron Fox.
    "We're trying not to let any entrepreneurs slip through the cracks and to do everything we can collectively," Fox said. "If all those organizations are working closely together, they'll be bumping into one another as they walk down the hall, providing a great opportunity."
    Dennis Leidall, executive director of Sustainable Valley Technology Group, was among 600 delegates at a National Business Incubation Association conference in Atlanta this week, collecting "best practices" ideas. He said his current eight clients will benefit from additional insight and activity.
    "It will make it much easier for myself and incubator clients to have access to resources and synergies by walking across the street," Leidall said. "With those agencies there and Lithia Motors finishing its project, it will bring a new vitality downtown. People will bump into each other on the street going to lunch and all that stuff. It will be like an incubator in a way with more people having an opportunity to introduce people to other people."
    The incubator remains committed to a long-term goal of developing technology-oriented companies, but is hosting a variety of entrepreneurial efforts.
    "I think you have to be patient," said Leidall, who came on board in January. "You never know what it's going to be like when you step in."
    Some incubator companies weren't as far along as others and needed technical assistance from Small Business Development staffs, and some are still in the concept stage.
    "We're still a mixed-use incubator and we reach out to all kinds of companies," Leidall said. "I'm happy to have inherited them all."
    Going forward, he hopes to change the criteria so that clients are legally incorporated and within a "short-term time frame to revenue generation," Leidall said.
    "They don't have to have complete business plans, but they need to articulate their market to see if there is a big enough upside if the company is fundable."
    SOREDI board President Mark VonHolle said it is important that one agency or another keep up with the companies that have participated in the first two Southern Oregon Angel Investor conferences.
    "Last year there were 31 applicants and this year there were 31 applicants with only two carry-overs from the year before," VonHolle said. "That tells us that this region is hotbed of entrepreneurial opportunity."
    He said academic studies show that companies going through three years in an incubator have an 87 percent survival rate, while the standard business failure rate for startups is 84 percent.
    "What we need to do is focus on reversing the failure rate," VonHolle said, "by plugging in those entrepreneurs and utilizing the business incubator to increase their odds of success."
    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.
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