Eight or so years ago, when construction on the then-new was completed, the economy was booming and village had 40 more people on its payroll then than it does today.
Fast-forward to 2012, and the economy needs all the help it can get, one section of village hall is unoccupied -- and an idea is born.
The Business Evolution Center, in which fledgling businesses would be given village office space at a nominal fee to help them get off the ground, is being proposed by village staff. If approved by the Plainfield Village Board, it could be in place by month’s end, Village Planner Michael Garrigan said.
“If you grow a business in a community, then it’s more likely to stay in the community,” Village Administrator Brian Murphy said last week when announcing the idea as part of the “state of the village” address presented to members of the .
Sometimes referred to as a “business incubator” system, the center would be made up of 20 to 25 cubicle spaces using about 4,000 square feet in what had formerly been the village building department. The “rent” would be a nominal amount – perhaps about $100 a month – to cover the cost of utilities, phone service and equipment, Garrigan said.
Businesses would share such things as copiers, would have access to a conference room in which to meet clients and could use village hall as their mailing address, he said.
The idea is to bring small businesses, many of which are home based, to the next level so they can offer a professional façade to attract customers or clients, Garrigan said.
“We want this to be really flexible to encourage new businesses to grow,” he said. “Home-occupied businesses don’t have a professional environment for clients.”
When they have enough money coming in, it’s anticipated the burgeoning companies would then make the leap to renting actual office space and hiring staff.
Garrigan said he has one business that’s already interested in renting six cubicles, and he anticipates the rest of the space will fill quickly. Only one office has been set aside – to be used by , which is closing its office on Lockport Street.
Businesses would have to sign a contract adhering to rules that are still being written, Garrigan said, and would give each side the opportunity to break the deal as necessary.
Garrigan said he came up with the idea because the village needs every opportunity it can get to help keep the ecomomy moving.
As Murphy told the chamber group, things are improving but not at the rate the village would like to see.
"(Looking at the year-end numbers), last year wasn't so dang-bad after all," he said. "It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad."