business incubator

Construction begins on Oxford business incubator

Facility to nurture research-related

enterprises.

By Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – Officials will break ground at 10 a.m. today for a 40,000-square foot facility aimed at helping entrepreneurs give their businesses a jump start.

The Oxford Business Center, located in the Oxford Industrial Park off Mississippi Highway 7 South, will be one of three sister business incubators of North Mississippi Enterprise Initiative, Inc. Other facilities will be located in Grenada and Batesville, with headquarters of the tri-county incubator network at the Oxford center.

Business incubators allow new ventures to share costs of such services as clerical help, meeting space and office equipment with others during their start-up phases. Space is made available in inexpensive increments from a one-person office to small manufacturing operations.

Most such enterprises will be expected to remain at the incubator no more than three years.

“That obviously depends on a waiting list and general needs at the time,” said Tim Climer, who will oversee day-to-day operations of the Oxford facility. “We have to balance the community’s interest in job creation with what an individual business needs at any given time.”

Five-year effort

Today’s ground breaking ceremony is the culmination of five years of planning that involved some 15 separate entities, including Oxford and Lafayette County, Batesville and Panola County, City of Grenada and Grenada County, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development (now Mississippi Development Authority), the University of Mississippi and local economic development boards.

Anticipating profit-oriented, job-producing spin-offs from technological research at Ole Miss, the Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation joined the university and other agencies in commissioning a needs analysis, which eventually showed such a need not only in Oxford but in the other communities studied as well.

“We anticipate for Oxford’s site that we’ll be more technology driven, with e-businesses or those that spring from research that’s being done at the pharmacy school or the acoustics center,” Climer said. “We hope that (Ole Miss) alumni who live away might return to Oxford and help us establish a technology sector in the local economy.

Other enterprises will be part of the mix as well.

“(A tenant company) can be something as simple as a consulting service, but we also anticipate having up to twenty-thousand square feet of manufacturing space,” said Max Hipp, executive director of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation. The sister centers in Grenada and Batesville may include high-tech ventures as well, but with locations on Interstate 55 they will also emphasize distribution-related business.

Participating agencies contributed a total of $3 million for the regional incubators, of which $1.2 million is budgeted for the Oxford facility. The incubator is expected to be operational in the early summer of 2001.