The University of Arizona’s Center for Innovation (UACI) is expanding into Sierra Vista and providing local technology start-ups the opportunity to get a leg-up with its incubator program.
The goal of expanding the incubator program into Sierra Vista is to develop 3 to 4 young tech start-ups and assist them through mentorship, a work space and an opportunity for sponsorship.
Eric Smith, the Executive Director of the UA Center for Innovation said the expansion to Sierra Vista and other rural communities will help facilitate economic growth.
“Compared to more suburban areas, rural areas don’t exactly always have the resources to find, to serve and to grow scalable tech companies like we do here in Tucson,” said Smith. “And what we’re seeing with some of these more recent successes is that the opportunity for economic growth is very large with these tech companies. And so, these more rural regions or municipalities are looking for some support.”
The project has three local entities championing the initiative locally: the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) of the City of Sierra Vista, the Sierra Vista Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Sierra Vista.
The IDA is providing the building space for the incubator— right next to the Cochise Economic Garden at 6049 East SR 90. The City of Sierra Vista is developing a sponsorship program for local tech businesses, and the Sierra Vista Area Chamber of Commerce’s chamber foundation — a non-profit created in partnership with the City of Sierra Vista and the IDA — is going after grants for additional funding to support the businesses in the incubator program.
“As a chamber of commerce, we’re a 501c6 organization — which basically makes us unable to go after grants,” said Sierra Vista Area Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Melany Edwards-Barton. “So in partnership with the City of Sierra Vista with support from the IDA, we were able to create a chamber foundation. So, we have a 501c3 now, and so that organization is really the one that is working together in this partnership. We’ll be able to go after grants to help support … the businesses that will go through the incubator.”
President of the Industrial Development Authority of the City of Sierra Vista Demetry Simonton also echoed the importance of facilitating another economic driver for the region.
“As someone who’s born and raised in Sierra Vista, my biggest fear is if Fort Huachuca should ever close or shrink down, what would happen to my community?” Simonton said. “For me, it’s how can we best leverage the current resources and assets that’s in the region to cultivate an economic driver that can be supplemental to Fort Huachuca?”
Sierra Vista Economic Development Manager Tony Boone said the city is looking to create a sponsorship program for businesses located in the Sierra Vista area.
“Last city council approved additional funding to effectively provide a sponsorship for the business to participate in UACI’s program,” said Boone. “So, if you take the IDA with really a no-cost location to work from and access with the sponsorship from the city — for the businesses located within the city, we can bring in a business for no-cost up through the first 12-months.”
“We’re going to put in a budget request for one-per-quarter to the tune of about right at $5,000 for their sponsorship fees,” Boone said. “So, the hope is we can get this moving so that we can have a rolling kind of enrollment and be able to sponsor a Sierra Vista business once a quarter.”
Simonton says that the business application process for the incubator for the first quarter is over, but said that he hopes the first businesses will take up shop in the incubator in mid-April.
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