Cleveland State launches business incubator to assist green start-ups

Cleveland State launches business incubator to assist green start-ups

February 23rd, 2011 by Randall Higgins in News

Staff Photo by Randall Higgins/Chattanooga Times Free Press Two versions of a groundbreaking took place Tuesday for the Cleveland/Bradley Energy Center, which will house "green'' related business start-ups. The center will be part of the Cleveland/Bradley Business Incubator located at Cleveland State Community College. The first groundbreaking was a radio-controlled shovel operated by Alan Gentry of Cleveland State. Then there was the traditional groundbreaking with local and state community leaders. From left, Incubator Executive Director Hurley Buff, Gentry and Dr. Carl Hite, Cleveland State president.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- A new center for environmentally related business start-ups got its own start Tuesday with a groundbreaking ceremony at Cleveland State Community College.

The Energy Center, located on the north side of Cleveland State's campus, will house eight "green" businesses and be the home for the college's alternative fuels program.

The center will be part of the existing program of the Cleveland/Bradley Business Incubator, which is on the south side of the campus.

The incubator recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The Energy Center has been planned since 2003.

"It's been eight years of hoping and not giving up," said Jeff Morelock, county commissioner and chairman of the incubator board.

Hurley Buff, the incubator director, said the center wants "to be able to help small businesses to survive and create jobs."

"Small business has always been the backbone of this country," he said. "Every time the call has gone out, small businesses have been able to innovate. That's what this building is all about."

Cleveland and Bradley County each contributed $75,000 to the project. Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis spoke for local government at the groundbreaking.

The Appalachian Regional Commission also provided a $150,000 grant, administered through the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Cleveland State, with the Tennessee Board of Regents, gave the Energy Center a 20-year lease at $1 a year.

Robert Connelly Jr., U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development assistant state director, presented a $99,000 grant for the center on Tuesday.

"None of us have the funds for a project like this. It's all about everybody working together for important projects like this," Connelly said.

Cleveland State's alternative fuels program will use cooking oil from the college diner to create biofuel for college vehicles, said Allan Gentry, technology department chairman at the school.

Among those gathered at what was once a police firing range were representatives from the Chattanooga Business Incubator and the McMinn County Chamber of Commerce, which is considering the possibility of a business incubator there.

Contact Randall Higgins at rhiggins@timesfreepress.com or 423-314-1029.