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Economic Opportunity


Develop Business Incubators

Business Incubators provide entrepreneurs with low cost space and mentorship to get their ideas off the ground.

Find out how your community can get started on developing a business incubator. »

Tool Information


  1. Entrepreneurship
  2. Jobs


Many communities are providing affordable and flexible office spaces for a new class of entrepreneurs who need inexpensive overhead while launching new ideas and small businesses. Most incubators are non-profit organizations, some are public, and a few are private for-profit ventures. Some business incubators specialize in certain industries so that entrepreneurs can benefit from some level of collaboration. Others provide general studio and office space for a wide variety of businesses to get a foothold.  Often there are services offered to provide training and education to young entrepreneurs developing business and marketing skills.

The advantage for businesses is that owners get access to low cost space, shared resources, mentorship and training.  Sometimes potential capital sources from investors pay attention to businesses in the incubator.  State government, or economic development organizations also take an interest in these home-grown businesses lending support.  Most Incubators operate under a mission to have a positive effect on the local economy by maximizing the success of emerging businesses.

Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg 2015 (CC-BY 2.0)

Hacking Culture Bootcamp @ Waag Society


Business Incubators run the gamut of those focused on certain sectors to those welcoming new start-ups from all industry sectors.  Often a University partners with a business incubator to capture the pool of young entrepreneurs coming fresh from academia and working to transfer technology from the University to the local commercial market.  This connection has the mutual benefit of keeping local investments in research and education cycling in the local economy while allowing recent graduates and principal investigators the opportunity to build upon their existing relationships and networks of support and expertise.  When young ambitious people see an opportunity to fulfil their ambitions locally, they are more likely to stay and contribute to the local community. 

 Kansas University's Bioscience and Technology Business Center (BTBC), in Lawrence, has achieved 100% occupancy in its first three years and has already begun work on phase two, with a 30,000 square foot addition to their incubator space. Bringing together private industry, academia, local researchers and entrepreneurs, KU's BTBC occupies a unique niche in the Lawrence business landscape.

Additional Information

Implementation Strategy

Champions and Partners

  • Local governments
  • State government
  • Business community leaders
  • Universities and colleges
  • Non-Profits like CEED in Kansas City


Medium (3-8 years)



Cost Details

  • New buildings or adaptive reuse of infill buildings
  • Staff to guide businesses with startup processes
  • Administrative expenses and either equipment or infrastructure

Funding Sources

  • U.S. Economic Development Association Business Incubator grants.
  • Local incentives
  • Venture capital
  • SBIR STTR Federal Grant funds for small businesses and technology transfer

Implementation Details

A brief outline of the first few steps necessary for implementation are provided. The steps outlined here are provided only as a suggested starting point and other approaches are certainly valid.

  • Join National Business Incubation Association to gain access to toolkit and listserv of other business incubators around the country.
  • Conduct a feasibility study for new business incubator
  • Secure funding, board, and staff
  • Attract partners and potential start-ups

Case Study

Business Incubator Case Studies

Greensburg Business Incubator

The City of Greensburg and USDA's Rural Development team partnered to create the Business Incubator to provide start-up space for small businesses to grow for a limited period of time at attractive rental rates until they can relocate or build a larger facility. The facility, along Main Street, houses five retail shops on the first floor and nine professional service offices on the second floor, along with a storm shelter. BNIM worked with the design team to provide sustainability expertise and help deliver an optimally performing building that achieves 57 percent energy efficiency through building siting, building skin design and the use of renewable energy.

Features of the LEED Platinum certified Business Incubator include: natural daylighting, rainwater harvesting, ground source heat pumps, photovoltaic panels for electrical generation and ICF wall construction.

The design of the Incubator creates a retail-focused street edge that engages pedestrian interaction connecting to the history and culture of Greensburg. The Main Street facade optimizes the length of the block with a "community architecture" featuring ideal building massing and materials. These elements work to support the design and sustainability goals of the Main Street Streetscape and the Sustainable Comprehensive Master Plans.


Ennovation Center

The Ennovation Center in Independence, MO is a innovative partnership of Independence Economic Development Corporation, Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers, Independence School District, and others. The Ennovation Center utilizes the city's historic hospital building, its industrial kitchen as new food labs, its surgery units as bio-tech wet labs and three stories of office space for young businesses.


This a regional example of integrating a business incubator as an economic development strategy within a community hoping to create new employment opportunities and keep talented young

entrepreneurs in the community.