Despite the lingering smell of new paint and carpet, the new Flagstaff Business Accelerator opened its doors Tuesday less than a year after breaking ground.
Officials with the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology and its partners cut the ribbon.
NACET President Annette Zinky said the organization already has several businesses who want to move into the new building on McMillan Mesa.
The 28,000 square-foot building on North Gemini Drive includes 25 offices, six wet/dry labs and three light manufacturing spaces.
Rents are more than reasonable for Flagstaff: $1,900 a month for the largest office, $2,200 a month for the largest lab.
It also includes a secondary emergency operations center for the city or county to use in case of a disaster.
The building's $7.7 million cost was funded through a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, a $2.6 million bond from the city of Flagstaff, a $1 million grant from the Arizona Commerce Authority and $100,000 from Northern Arizona University.
The idea behind the project is to provide space for businesses that are just starting to make revenue, said Paul Thomas, NACET’s chief entrepreneur. These businesses are a little further along than the businesses that are housed in the 10,000 square-foot Flagstaff Business Incubator across the street, which is also run by NACET.
The Incubator is designed to provide mentoring, grant-writing help and office, lab and conference space to entrepreneurs who are trying to get a new business started, he said. Businesses at the Incubator might not be making enough revenue yet to rent their own space or equipment.
NACET receives funding from the city of Flagstaff, NAU and from contracts, leases, federal grants and client fees to run the Incubator and the Accelerator.
The Accelerator isn’t just for businesses that graduate from the Incubator, Thomas said. Any business that is just starting to make revenue and is looking for office, lab or light manufacturing space can lease room at the Accelerator. There are even a couple of out-of-state businesses that have shown interest in renting space in the Accelerator.
However, it is designed as a stepping stone to the next level, not a permanent office.
“We had one business that wanted to rent half the building. That’s not what we’re trying to do,” he said.
The Accelerator is also not designed to compete with other office spaces in town, he said. It’s here to provide a resource for businesses that are looking to make that next step forward and grow a sustainable income before moving on to bigger and better things.
Thomas said that NACET may divide some of the larger offices into co-working areas, where an individual can buy space for a desk and a file cabinet and share the rest of the space with other entrepreneurs.
The Accelerator also has six wet/dry labs that include sealed concrete floors, vent hoods, instant hot water and safety equipment.
Thomas said NACET is currently talking with at least three different companies that are interested in leasing lab space at the Accelerator.
The Acceleator also has three light manufacturing rooms, with increased electrical power and their own fuse boxes to handle a higher electrical load from machinery.
Each office, lab and manufacturing room has its own thermostat, motion-controlled light switches and security system, Thomas said. The cost of utilities is included in the lease, so businesses don’t have to worry about a separate bill for those services.
The Accelerator also includes a small kitchen and conference rooms.
The largest conference room, just inside the main doors, is designed to double as an emergency operations center for local governments during a disaster. The room has two drop-down screens and two flat screen TVs, as well as several exits to the outside. It can be divided into two smaller conference rooms. The emergency center and the lobby can be separated from the rest of the Accelerator by two large doors.
Just outside the emergency center, several tall steel fence poles are set into the ground around a small courtyard at the front of the building.
“It looks like an unfinished fence, but it’s deliberate,” Thomas said.
The poles are designed to be pulled out of the ground to allow emergency vehicles to park in the courtyard next to the entrance to the emergency center, he said
The entire building is wired for the fastest Internet possible and a back-up generator will provide power to the emergency center and to some electrical outlets in the labs, Thomas said.
Businesses at the Accelerator will have access to all of the office tools and conference spaces that are currently available at the Incubator, he said. They are also able to access the Incubator’s mentorship, grant writing and collaborative programs.
Thomas said the city has charged NACET with filling the Accelerator with new businesses within three years. He didn’t think NACET would have a problem meeting that requirement.