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The Next Step

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | November 7, 2017

Several people ask “when are you moving” on a weekly basis. Rather than a simple “Did you know” question at the bottom of the newsletter, we thought we would take this opportunity to discuss the project progress and answer some questions concerning our impending move. So, below are a few questions we have received:

1. Do you have all of your funds raised for the building project? No. Our total funding goal is $750,000 and we have raised over $700,000 thus far. The City of Emporia and Lyon County have provided a “challenge match” collectively of $80,000 to facilitate the project, and we have raised $46,500 towards that match. We are still searching for donors to help us “close out” our campaign.

2. When are you moving in? We plan on starting spot demolition (we aren’t demolishing the building- we are re-configuring the store front and interior) in a few weeks. Our goal is to be in the building at 727 Commercial Street in time for the Dirty Kanza on June 2nd, 2018.

3. Will the building fit the design of other downtown buildings? Yes. We looked at our Community Initiated Development Phase II Design Guidelines to inform the exterior design of the building. Appropriate building materials (brick & stone), awnings, lighting, addressing the corner, bulkheads, window size, and more were considered when developing the building aesthetic. There are definitely buildings that don’t “fit” the look of buildings in a certain age/development style, and we didn’t want to contribute to that. Inappropriate infill can damage traffic for entities in a building with a strange design aesthetic, and it can have negative consequences for neighboring buildings. We want the new building rehab to enhance the area, not detract from it.

4. Why do we need a business incubator? Emporia Main Street has worked tirelessly over our twenty-six year history to assist entrepreneurs. Our educational programs, loans, development assistance, consulting, and other assets have encouraged start ups and business expansions. Nationally, 2016 was a forty year low for entrepreneurial start ups. When we look at reasons some potential entrepreneurs don’t “jump in” to the market- costs associated with overhead, a lack of consistent assistance, a lack of working capital, and limited real estate “start up” opportunities rank high. We need a way to get businesses started in an environment where we can “scale up” costs over time, and eventually move entrepreneurs to a permanent location that fits their business type. “Revolving door” tenants prevent landlords from re-investing in properties, and our goal is to create a solid footing for small businesses so they can find their “perfect spot” once they have additional business experience under their belt.

5. What is a “fab lab”? Short for “fabrication lab”, a fab lab enables individuals that want to prototype products or work with certain types of machinery a space and equipment to work with/in. Existing industry benefits because people become familiar with some types of equipment that are critical to modern production, and that familiarity can lead to certifications through local educational institutions- thus building a worker base. Local businesses can develop from fab labs, or local industries can have entrepreneurs expose them to new products for production. Existing businesses can develop value added products unique to their own businesses. Fab labs build on the intellectual capital of a community to generate entrepreneurial opportunities, and we think that is pretty important for Emporia’s future.

6. So is Main Street using the whole building? No. Actually, the “Main Street” portion of the building won’t significantly expand on our existing square footage, but the space will be more conducive to our operations. Main Street will occupy about 1/3 of the building. We will have dedicated spaces for offices (including an office with a door!), a boardroom space that we can share, a dedicated “work space” (if you have ever been in our office, you know how important this is…), and some shared storage. The Dirty Kanza will occupy about 1/3 of the building with offices and storage. The remaining 1/3 of the building will be utilized for an incubator space and fab lab.

7. Are you taking the building off of the tax rolls? No. One of Emporia Main Street’s goals is to improve the tax base, and we can’t do that by removing buildings from the tax base.

8. What types of businesses will you “incubate”? We will incubate for-profit businesses in “start up” mode. Our Business Enhancement team will score applicants in ten categories and provide a recommendation to the Emporia Main Street Board of Directors. The Board will make a final determination on businesses locating within the incubation space. We will not have hood systems or other restaurant related equipment in the space, so those types of businesses will be excluded from consideration. Emporia Main Street will release an application and scoring matrix closer to the building completion date for interested applicants.

9. How can I give to the campaign? There are a few different ways you can give to the building campaign. You can contact Emporia Main Street ( [email protected] ), and we would love to talk to you about donation options. You can attend our auction this Thursday starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Bourbon Cowboy in downtown Emporia. The proceeds for the auction will go to the capital campaign and match the city/county challenge grant. You can donate to the capital campaign by CLICKING HERE. There is a donate button at the bottom of the linked page.

The building at 727 Commercial Street is a multi-function facility that should diversify and grow our entrepreneurial base. The building will allow us to continue our support for large scale events and activities in Emporia, while creating an environment where we can better serve redevelopment activities in the region. You may have additional questions about the project, and we welcome your inquiries. Contact Emporia Main Street if you would like to know more about the project, or you can just stop us at any one of the many events or activities Main Street is conducting over the next couple of months!

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.