Will County, Lewis U, look to hatch a new business incubator

Plans are cooking for a new business incubator which would bring the promise of development and growth to Will County area startups.

Through a partnership between the Des Plaines River Valley Enterprise Zone and Lewis University in Romeoville, the proposed Regional Alliance Business Incubator would be housed on the Lewis University campus and would tap the resources of the college and local business support organizations.

Where most other incubators are targeting the suburban technology or manufacturing industries, Burton said they will study the local business landscape first to see where interests and opportunities lie. That will be done through a feasibility study, which is expected to start this month and be handled by a third party.

"We have light manufacturing all the way down to the hair dressers, so there's a plethora of different businesses that are in the Will County area," said Burton, who is coordinating the incubator project. "The feasibility study will look at all of those -- what is there now, what are the opportunities -- and help us form who we are going to attract and go after."

Another difference is that the incubator will focus on "graduating" new businesses through a structured two-year training and mentoring program.

"It's not going to be a space where I go into my office and shut the door and work on my business," Burton said. "We're going to have a full program with an assigned mentor, a series of workshops, and milestones that each entrepreneur will have to reach before they graduate."

To do that, the incubator will tap into Lewis University's faculty and student base, as well as resources from its various schools and the Entrepreneur Center, to provide the training and tools for startups.

"The university has a lot of good resources that an entrepreneur may be able to take advantage of," Burton said. "For example, if a company needs to use lab space, can work with the labs in our School of Arts and Sciences. We also have a video production studio on campus and students or faculty can help create videos for their websites."

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