Renovations are now complete at the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Business Development Center, which for the past nine months has undergone a $6 million transformation in building updates and improvements.
"Small businesses create jobs and personal wealth, and they give our community life," said Kathryn Foster, director of small business and entrepreneurship for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. "I know they are what are going to sustain our economy for years to come."
The 80-plus-year-old BDC building was always cold in the winter and hot in the summer and typically had around 12 leaks, said Foster.
She said the BDC now features energy-efficient, insulated windows as well as a new green roof system. The building also has upgraded common areas, and a state-of-the art conference center with five new big-screen TVs.
"Tenants can now bring clients into a beautiful facility and make it look like they're established," said Foster.
She said the building will soon be Leadership in Energy Environmental and Design-certified and its energy footprint has been reduced by 40 percent, which means lower energy bills for tenants.
Currently at half capacity, the BDC is seeking a new class of tenants to benefit from the wide range of services offered by its INCubator program. The mixed-use facility can accommodate as many as 60 service or light industrial companies.
"It's great to get below-market rent, but it's even better to take advantage of the program here," Foster said.
Tenants are paired with a counselor to help with their business and marketing plans and also receive assistance with taxes, human resources, insurance and accounting issues. Tenants also get a free post office box and access to resources such as conference rooms, the Chattanooga Technology Council and educational seminars offered by the Tennessee Small Business Development Center.
Nationally, one in two businesses typically fails in the first three years (the length of time businesses can stay at the center), while the program at the BDC has a 92 percent graduation rate, said Foster.
She said the BDC will graduate its 500th business later this year. In 2010, the center graduated 27 businesses, which is above the average number of 23-25 businesses that move out and become independent each year.
Successful businesses born at the BDC include nanofiber technology company E Spin, telecommunications consultants Jabez Communications, Velo Coffee Roasters and Integrity Restoration, a company which helps clean up after natural catastrophes.
Contact Kathryn Foster at 752-9406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.