PROGRAM BACKGROUND: FEASIBILITY & VIABILITY
In 2018, Engine was awarded a $25,000 EDA grant to complete a feasibility study for IGNITE. The IGNITE Design and Innovation Coworking Center (“IGNITE”), a program of Engine, Inc., is designed to be a coworking space for young, small manufacturers for whom design is a primary competitive advantage. Serving entrepreneurs who are makers and creators as well as businesspersons, IGNITE will provide focused support not already present in Maine’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, while leveraging existing resources to train and educate its members. IGNITE will build community among its members and with the broader Biddeford and Southern Maine creative community by offering programming in design thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship. An annual youth entrepreneurship program will have the same focus, and complement existing Engine youth programs.
IGNITE will be a natural complement to the renovated Marble Block, with its advantageous location on Main Street in Biddeford’s reviving downtown. The Coworking Center will occupy the second floor of the Marble Block, and share conference rooms, kitchen facilities and a makerspace on the first floor with Engine. The first floor will also incorporate a gallery/retail space to display and sell the products made by IGNITE members, among others. The makerspace will be outfitted with equipment relevant to the IGNITE members, such as industrial sewing machines, laser cutters, 3-D printers and high-resolution color printers. Some programming may leverage the third-floor event space.
Camoin 310 concludes that IGNITE is a feasible project.
- The market for its services is present in the Biddeford and York County region, and a survey of potential clients found strong interest.
- The model, a coworking center for design, is well documented and has been effectively implemented elsewhere, including in Maine.
- A detailed financial analysis reveals that the program will be cash flow positive after an initial grant or investment for fitting out the space and other startup costs.
- Both IGNITE and Engine enjoy strong support among local economic development organizations and the community, and
- Engine’s Board is ready to implement the project.
To be successful, IGNITE will need to stay focused on its narrow mission to support design-based manufacturers, and curate its membership carefully, while balancing the need to keep the space fully occupied. A detail-oriented professional with strong customer service skills will need to be hired to market IGNITE and coordinate its services. The space should be carefully and thoughtfully planned to provide an authentic and vibrant location for entrepreneurs, but with consideration for amenities like Wi-Fi, sound control and privacy. Lastly, positive, mutually beneficial relationships with other entrepreneurial support providers in Maine’s entrepreneurial ecosystem (for example, Maine College of Art, the University of Maine Foster Center, York County Community College, Maine Small Business Development Center, and Maine Center for Entrepreneurs) will ensure the provision of quality training and services to IGNITE members.
Camoin 310 estimates that the economic impact of this project will be 34 total jobs, over $1.3 million in earnings, and nearly $4.4 million in sales in York County, annually. The economic impact is based on the assumption that the 25 clients occupying the space are full time equivalent workers and new entrants into the York County market.
UMAINE OFFICE OF INNOVATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: The OIED team at the University of Maine is excited to take the next steps forward with you in creating a business incubation and accelerator program for makers in York County. OIED provides the business services at one of the longest-standing and most successful business incubators in the state of Maine, the UpStart Center for Entrepreneurship, formerly the Target Technology Center. In addition, this team created the successful Foster Center for Student Innovation, the first student incubator in Maine, and provides coaching and support services at the business incubators at the Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research in Franklin and the Union River Center for Innovation in Ellsworth. OIED also serves as the primary connection point for start-ups and existing companies to use the facilities and expertise at the University of Maine. OIED will leverage their existing resources and expertise to help operate the program at a lower cost and to develop synergies with UMaine and our other partner incubators and programs. OIED will also develop pathways for IGNITE clients to work with the University of Maine’s Advanced Manufacturing Center as they scale their projects. Specifically, OIED will provide the following assistance:
- Business coaching – a monthly coaching session with each client
- Non-coaching activities to include connections to mentors/resources, etc.
- Planning and organizing one workshop per month (not including summer/holiday months) – 8 per year
THINKTANK BIDDEFORD: From startup attorneys, corporate law, branding, web development, finance, and creative services, members of Biddeford’s first co-working space can offer mentorship support.