By DAN SHINGLER 4:30 am, March 12, 2012
Some newly minted college graduates and perhaps students reaching the end of their academic careers soon will have a place to hang out, network with one another, get on the Internet and, with some luck, form some of Northeast Ohio’s next successful businesses. And it all can happen at a special incubator built and maintained just for them. The manufacturing support group Magnet is starting the project this spring. Dubbed “The Beta Space,” its purpose is to help would-be entrepreneurs by allowing them to network more easily with each other, as well as with seasoned business professionals, said David Crain, director of entrepreneurial services for Magnet. The Beta Space will be aimed at young entrepreneurs who have an idea for a business that involves manufacturing or engineering, Mr. Crain said. Because they’ll be at Magnet’s main site near downtown Cleveland, they’ll have access to engineers, designers and other product development specialists that Magnet already uses as consultants to area manufacturers, Mr. Crain said. “They’ll be in a facility where all we do is help people make stuff, and they’ll have access to all of that,” he said. In addition, Magnet is signing up service providers — lawyers, accountants and experts in marketing and finance — who will staff a group of three offices at The Beta Space on a rotating schedule. They’ll provide free services and general counseling not only to the young entrepreneurs, but also to other manufacturing- related businesses in the area, Mr. Crain said. “I’m signing up service providers that will be in one to four days a month,” Mr. Crain said. The entire project is financed with about $20,000 in local contributions, including a $10,000 grant from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, Mr. Crain said. That money will outfit the approximately 2,000-square-foot room with office furniture, desks, Internet, phone connections and most of what the entrepreneurs will need to work, aside from their own computers. Mr. Crain said he already has signed up his first couple entrepreneurs and is building out the space with plans to open it in late April or early May. The Hudson-based Morgan Foundation, named after the late local entrepreneurial advocate Burt Morgan, “believes networking and building connections are important elements of successful entrepreneurial activity and that the beta space is designed to achieve that goal,” foundation president Deborah Hoover said. “We’re particularly interested in ensuring that young entrepreneurs have the opportunity to connect and we’re working to promote the availability of the space among the collegiate programs that we support,” she said.