By DAN SEUFERT
Union Leader Correspondent
PLYMOUTH — The Enterprise Center at Plymouth, a local business incubator and accelerator, has already started doing business, though its new building will not be ready until fall.
The center is a partnership between Plymouth State University and the Grafton County Economic Development Council that was established last year to create new businesses and jobs in the greater Plymouth area. It moves into its newly renovated building at 149 Main St. in September, said ECP Executive Director Michael Tentnowski.
But through its “virtual” presence prior to the renovation completion, the center has already held a local business advisory session this summer at which 200 area entrepreneurs were present, Tentnowski said, and it’s signed on three member businesses that will occupy 75 percent of the building’s 10,000 square feet of space.
The center is currently a one-man operation run by Tentnowski but will soon hire a part-time staff member, with PSU student interns and area volunteers helping. The center is meant to support entrepreneurship, small businesses, and economic development in the area by providing services, including leased space, mentoring, and networking — to new and existing businesses.
“I think of it as a one-stop shopping opportunity for entrepreneurial activity in central New Hampshire,” Tentnowski said.
The county council is providing the physical location and building, using $2 million in federal, state and corporate funding for the building and the renovation. The building had been a site of a bagel restaurant.
PSU is providing the incubator with staffing through the use of interns from business, computer science and other academic programs at the university. It is also providing intellectual capital in the form of consulting and advising services with the help of PSU professors of business and other fields.
“In return, many of these businesses hire the university’s interns or other area companies hire them, so it’s a great situation,” Tentnowski said.
The ECP will keep an office in the building, which has room for up to 12 more member tenants, depending on how many employees come with each new business. The ECP office includes a sales skills development video production room and space dedicated to professional focus group services.
Among the new businesses is TotalScope Marketing LLC, whose owner, Mark LaClair, had been running his business out of his Plymouth home for the past six years. He hopes to hire three to four employees this year, and plans to make use of PSU interns.
“The business support they’ve given us and we’re getting in the new building will help us grow to the next level,” LaClair said. “The resources we gain access to, the interns and the academic staff of the university, are tremendous.”
Another member tenant is Narrative1 Software, whose owner, Tom Armstrong, is bringing his business and its 12 employees to the new building from the business’ home of the last nine years in Holderness in great part because of the new connection to PSU.
“The collaboration with the university is a big deal for us,” Armstrong said. “The input from the faculty and the interns will help our business.”
The ECP is planning a grand opening ceremony for the building on Oct. 15.