Should Concord host a business incubator? Wait, what’s a business incubator?

July 13th, 2014 by Lynn

    Monitor staff

    Did you know the best-selling software program for property appraisers and assessors is made by a company in Plymouth?

    The company, which has grown from seven to 12 employees in the past eight months, is an anchor member of the Enterprise Center at Plymouth, or ECP, a business incubator space sponsored by Plymouth State University and the Grafton County Economic Development Council.

    ECP is the newest member of the New Hampshire Business Incubator Network, which includes locations in Conway, Durham, Hanover, Keene, Manchester and Portsmouth.

    “We basically have the state covered,” said ECP Executive Director Michael Tentnowski. “Of course, there’s a void between Manchester and Plymouth called Concord. I didn’t do a demographic profile, but it would seem like a natural to me. There is always room for a well thought out, progressive incubator.”

    That’s exactly what some Concord-area officials think, too. They visited the Plymouth center last week with an eye toward possibly creating a similar space here.

    But the first thing to know about incubator spaces is they are more than just space.

    The Plymouth center offers Grafton County startups access to high-speed internet service as well as access to experienced business professionals, like Tentnowski, who has been in the business development field for more than 20 years. He’s able to answer questions, or find an expert in the community who can.

    And for some entrepreneurs, having access to peers is almost as valuable as a fast computer and a full Rolodex.

    Allison Grappone lives in Concord but commutes to AlphaLoft in Manchester, where she works on growing her new business, Nearby Registry. It’s an online gift registry service that connects consumers with independent shops who might not have the time to run their own registry services.

    When Grappone won the statewide Start-up Challenge contest in 2011, her prize package included mentoring at AlphaLoft, an incubator organization with four spaces in Manchester, Durham and Portsmouth.

    “Honestly, it reduced a lot of the barriers to starting up a business. I was surrounded by people who were asking similar questions to what I needed, or they had asked them in the past,” she said.

    As she writes a request for proposals for software work, she can have a web developer at the desk around the corner review the language. And the developer can look over the estimates candidates send back, so Grappone knows what’s a good deal.

    There are lunch-and-learn sessions with lawyers and human resource professionals and accountants. Local investors visit often to meet with entrepreneurs and are willing to listen to and help refine pitches, even if a company’s not ready for outside funding, Grappone said.

    If a center opened in Concord, she’d consider switching locations only if the programs offered matched her needs.

    “Anybody can rent an office anywhere. When you’re starting a business, you want a space filled with smart people willing to give of their experience and time and mentor others. These are people who aren’t looking for their next sales lead, they’re looking to participate in this enterprise so the business environment around them gets better,” said Marc Sedam, vice chairman of the board of directors for AlphaLoft.

    “Physical location is the very last thing someone should look at when thinking about an incubator. You want to know, who’s in it, what kind of help and support do they offer?”

    Sedam is also executive director of UNHInnovation. His office manages and promotes intellectual property developed by the university, and creates partnerships between UNH and businesses. UNH contributes about $300,000 annually to the centers, and operating with one leadership team reduced redundancies, Sedam said.

    Until this summer, AlphaLoft’s four locations were run by different groups. But last month, they all combined forces – and budgets.

    “What we don’t want as a state is to Balkanize, where there is an incubator every 10 miles. We’re not Cambridge. There’s not enough activity to split into tiny pieces. That’s a way to make sure no one’s successful,” he said.

    There are still several questions for advocates to answer before an incubator in Concord could be successful.

    The project in Plymouth was about 10 years in the making – from conception through feasibility studies, location scouting and construction.

    “You can’t just say I’m going to build something and hope somebody shows up,” Tentnowski said. “Unless you do a feasibility study and an asset inventory, it’s not proper planning.”

    He told the group from Concord that last week, and they heard him, loud and clear, they said.

    Speaking after their tour, Steve Caccia, vice president of student affairs at NHTI – and the school’s recent interim president – Tim Sink, president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, and Byron Champlin, a city councilor and a member of the Concord Economic Development Advisory Council, all said this is a project in its infancy, but they are eager to learn more about incubators.

    “Generally speaking, there’s a high incidence of companies that sling shot off of incubator spaces to stay in their local community and grow there. Why would we not want that?” Champlin said. “My concern is we might be a bit behind the curve (of other centers around the state), but we can learn from their experiences and lessons to develop, if we go this route, a really strong contender.”

    NHTI would be interested in joining the partnership to offer professors as experts where needed, and to gain internship opportunities for students, Caccia said.

    “I don’t think we would have the power or the expertise or the resources to do it on our own, but the more resources and the more local assets that are vested in it, the more successful it could possible be.

    “Anecdotally, my gut’s telling me if we did it, we could make it work,” he said. He thinks the chamber and the city might be able to find grants to fund a feasibility study.

    “But it’s not a case of ‘if you build, it they will come.’ You’ve got to ask all the questions first,” he added.

    (Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)


    U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte visits Enterprise Center at Plymouth

    June 5th, 2014 by Lynn


      Left to right, Mark LeClair, Grafton County Economic Development Corporation, Mark Scarano, Grafton County Economic Development Corporation, PSU President Sara Jayne Steen, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Michael Tentnowski, ECP Director and PSU Business faculty present Ayotte with an engraved brick in appreciation for her support of economic development efforts in the Lakes Region

      PLYMOUTH — New Hampshire U.S Sen. Kelly Ayotte visited the Enterprise Center at Plymouth (ECP) May 29 and said the partnership it represents and job creation potential is impressive.

      The ECP, located at One Bridge St., opened last fall at full capacity, providing fledgling businesses with a state-of-the-art facility. The ECP is a business incubator space, providing a “one stop shop” for businesses throughout the region seeking advice and counseling, services, leased space, mentoring, and networking. The Grafton County Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC) constructed the building using $2 million in federal, state and corporate funding; Plymouth State University provides staffing, campus-wide business services and intellectual capital. Sen. Ayotte said the partnership between PSU and GCEDC is working.

      “It’s a great facility that is bringing the private sector and the University together,” said Ayotte, who serves on the Senate Commerce committee. “I think it’s bringing everyone together to create opportunities for new businesses and more jobs for the area.”

      PSU President Sara Jayne Steen also discussed the GCEDC’s important partnership with PSU.

      “PSU’s mission includes economic and workforce development for the region,” Steen said. “We’re very pleased to have the Senator here because we believe what all of our partners are doing here makes a huge difference to this region.”

      GCEDC Chief Executive Officer Mark Scarano presented Sen. Ayotte with an engraved brick marking her visit and thanking her for her support of economic development; the brick also commemorates the Richelson family, which began a business on the ECP site nearly 100 years ago.

      Unique features of the ECP include a sales skills development office, video production room and space dedicated to professional focus group services. The ECP also acts as a headquarters for an enhanced business outreach effort in central New Hampshire by PSU faculty, staff and students.

      Enterprise Center to host next Chamber Business After Hours event

      March 20th, 2014 by Lynn

        PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth Regional Chamber of Commerce will host the next Business After Hours networking event at the Enterprise Center at Plymouth on March 27, from 5-7 p.m., in the large conference room on the first floor. Local, regional, and state business resources will be on hand to talk with business owners and share how their organizations help businesses develop and grow.

        For this special event, the Chamber has assembled the various resources available to businesses in central New Hampshire. Those in attendance will be representatives from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Small Business Administration (SBA), SCORE, Grafton County Economic Development Council (GCEDC), and Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED).

        Also present will be Plymouth State University organizations that work closely with local businesses to offer much needed assistance including the Student Design Company which provides graphic design services; Small Business Institute® (SBI) which offers in-depth business studies including business plans, feasibility studies, and other specialized plans; Marketing Association at Plymouth State (MAPS) which works with area businesses on projects and initiatives; and a representative from the Global Education Office which helps to coordinate student internships with businesses the community.

        Don’t miss this informative event and the best networking in town!

        This business-networking event, conducted by the Plymouth Regional Chamber, is part of their active support of the regional businesses and is possible through the generous support of key area businesses and professionals, the Enterprise Center at Plymouth, and is made possible by a USDA Rural Development Grant.

        The Plymouth Regional Chamber of Commerce serves the business community by promoting the greater Plymouth area as a unique place to live, work, and play; recognizing its business, social, and economic opportunities. For more information about Chamber events, or the Plymouth Regional Chamber of Commerce you may contact the office at 536-1001, or email


        Kuster talks economic development at PSU

        January 17th, 2013 by Michael

          Enterprise Center to host follow-up seminar on the hiring process

          December 20th, 2012 by Michael

            Construction begins on Enterprise Center

            December 13th, 2012 by Michael

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