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Umatilla tribe considers incubator for startups

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Thursday, January 01, 2009
PENDLETON The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation wants to find a way to nurture startups in the Pendleton area.

In an effort to promote entrepreneurship and small business ownership, the tribe is considering building a business incubator that would house 10 to 20 organizations. The facility would not only give startup businesses affordable space to establish themselves, but would present entrepreneurs the opportunity to share costly support resources, network with fellow tenants, and participate in business training and consulting.

A business incubator would provide the space and services that fledgling businesses need to grow and prosper, says Kathleen Flanagan, director of the tribe’s business service center.

Small business development in Pendleton falls significantly below the national average, according to Art Hill, director of Blue Mountain Community College’s Small Business Development Center. An incubator would bolster job growth, sales revenue and asset appreciation communitywide, says Hill.

The tribe’s business service center, in cooperation with the BMCC Small Business Development Center and the Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation, partnered to create and distribute a questionnaire to gauge community interest in the project. When the feasibility study concludes this month, planning officials will have a better grasp of the level of support for the incubator and the needs of the business community.

Although preliminary survey results are unavailable, Hill notes that the discussion with community leaders, tribal leaders and business professionals has been decidedly positive.

The tribe’s next step will be to develop a building design and business plan. With those pieces intact, planning officials will consider both private and public funding to finance the incubators start-up costs, including grant and tribal funding.

“We want to strengthen and grow the private sector on the reservation,” says Flanagan. “What benefits the tribe benefits Pendleton.”                        


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