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Village Hall-Based 'Business Evolution Center' to Nuture Fledgling Companies

Business owners would rent cubicles for a nominal fee in order to have a professional place to do work, meet clients and eventually grow large enough to rent actual office space.

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."

Debra Olsen January 23, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Speaking as a local commercial / office space owner this appears to be in direct competition with the private sector. I am not opposed to the Village of Plainfield leasing space at market value, but to undercut local business people is unfair competition. Debbie Olsen
Alijdfliawje January 23, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Good idea. Debra, I think you misunderstand the concept. They would not be competing directly with you, and may in the future help you as businesses grow to the point that they will need commercial space. This is very similiar to what Chicago is doing at the Merchandise Mart and other around the country such as New York, Boston and San Jose.
Miguel Sanchez January 23, 2012 at 06:44 PM
I think it is a great idea. The taxpayers are already paying for it so why not put it to good use.
Plainfield Resident 22 January 23, 2012 at 07:01 PM
I think this is a fantastic idea. Debbie - as a small business owner, I've had a very difficult time finding small office space that appropriately fits our small staff and also allows us to easily expand for seasonal projects. I don't see this as direct competition with the private sector for two reasons: (1) This type of space is not currently available in Plainfield (or if it is, I certainly have not been able to find it), and (2) the type of business owner that this situation appeals to is most likely not in a position to afford or fill a commercially available space. However, giving new or developing small businesses an affordable alternative that will allow them to expand more quickly will end up benefiting the private sector in the long run. There is also great value here in creating a space where small business owners can meet, collaborate, and support each other.
Jerry January 23, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Debra, that's like saying local governments shouldn't offer public transportation because it will put the car dealers out of business. I think local commercial property owners in Plainfield GROSSLY overvalue their space and charge way to much rent. I understand the need to do this because a lot of this property was purchased at inflated prices during the building boom when there was visions of a Napervillian future for downtown Plainfield. The commercial landlords have mortgages to pay now, too. The other thing you could consider is doing just what the village is doing and other companies have been successful at...furnish an office space, provide a receptionist, phone service, computers, conference rooms, etc and lease the space to several small business owners not ready to make the big plunge to their own offices, but who need a professional looking office and business address. One thing I will say is that this should be limited to one or two spaces per business. I think a company like the one mentioned that wants 6 cubicle spaces needs to be looking at separate space and not trying to capitolize in taxpayer subsidized offices for $600 a month.
Plainfield PC Service January 23, 2012 at 08:03 PM
I agree with Jerry, if you can afford 6 cubicles,then your not hurting so bad.
Lisa S. January 23, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Personally, I think $100 per month is a little on the low side when you factor in the liability that the Viallage takes on by doing this. They need some hard numbers on what they should be charging to actually cover costs instead of pulling it out of the air as they too often do. And I agree that it should belimited as to how many spaces one business can take. If they can afford six, they can afford to go elsewhere.
Tired of Gov't January 23, 2012 at 11:17 PM
I own small home business in Plainfield and just off the top of my head I can think of untold reasons why this is a bad idea. There is a reason rent is what it is. For starters my 300 sq foot for office, bath & storage is 10% my home therefore $6000 property taxes= $600yr. I had to buy a $6000 copier just like village is giving away free to use (just paid off 36 mo @188mo) still has $60/mo maitenance/toner fee= $720/yr. Water/sewer/garbage 1200yr, ever see what a dumpster costs. 10% Electric & gas w/ 5%village taxes 3500yr= $350, business telephone & DSL $1200yr, What do you think it casts the village to maintain their $20,000 phone system. So far $4000/yr = $333.00 per month to start. Double these costs if in a stand alone rental space. Then there is the extra cleaning service for bathroom, carpet, garbage collection, light fixture bulb and maintenance, furnace maintenance, parking lot maintenance and snow removal, liability insurance. Who is responsible for slip n falls, theft, vandalism. Village hall going to be open 24/7, more electricity, heat, security. No late night hrs for start-up business? If the Village wants to subsidize these start-ups then where is my check! Or do I just pay taxes for the insiders who get the space. When do you oust the start-up and make room for the new wanna be businesses? Its bull xxxx if you ask me. But heck, from my pocket to yours. Its only the fair thing to do! Lets do some REDISTRIBUTION!!!!!
Tim January 24, 2012 at 01:13 AM
I like how you 'forgot' to mention the thousands and thousands of dollars in personal tax deductions you are getting, that these cubes would not qualify for. Not to mention the 'numbers' you are quoting are basically nonsensical. Each office is not going to have its own dedicated DSL line, and each cubicle is not comparable to your household water/sewer bill as I'm pretty sure there are no showers in the cubicles. That is just a completely nonsensical comparison to make. You seem to have a misunderstanding what 'shared-space' means. Because of that, the rest of your comparisons are similarly asinine. A VOIP phone system can easily handle this, and is no more than a one time purchase of a couple hundred bucks. Not $20,000 as you claim(made up from somewhere). Also, I would not be surprised if the amount of copies made were kept track of, and there was a usage-based fee on top of the usual rent. Just like all the other incubator-type setups around the country. All around, it looks like a good plan by the village, if it is not abused.
Jerry January 24, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Agreed Tim. This could easily turn into a way for certain elected officials to lease office space to their friends or family members for next to nothing. There would need to be strict regulation to avoid abuse and there should be some restrictions as to the types of businesses that are not eligible...temporary campaign organizations for instance.
Jay January 24, 2012 at 01:37 AM
"I like how you 'forgot' to mention the thousands and thousands of dollars in personal tax deductions you are getting" The Home Office deduction is limited to 2% of AGI. 'Tired of Gov'T' would need to be living in a mansion with a super jumbo mortgage and be a 1%'er to be getting 'thousands and thousands' for deducting his home office expenses. In reality, this deduction is relatively small and the threshold to qualify is rather difficult, because you cannot take the deduction if you use the space for anything other than business. Have a home computer in the office that one of your kids use to do homework, disqualified.
Tim January 24, 2012 at 01:44 AM
If you have never been in a setup like this, I can assure you that it is not a place that would be somewhere you would want to stick around for longer than is necessary. Ever try using a DSL line shared by 25 other people? It's a good start for those looking to put a professional look on their interactions with clients that may only last an hour or so, and to move on up from there.
Tim January 24, 2012 at 02:11 AM
"The Home Office deduction is limited to 2% of AGI." Oh look! more made up facts! The Home Office deduction STARTS after 2% of AGI. 2% is the threshold, it is not the limit. home-office expenses are categorized as miscellaneous expenses on Schedule A of Form 1040. Those expenses must exceed 2% of your AGI before you can deduct them. Don't believe me, the IRS publishes this for you to read too; http://www.irs.gov/publications/p529/ar02.html "You can deduct certain expenses as miscellaneous itemized deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040 or Form 1040NR). You can claim the amount of expenses that is MORE than 2% of your adjusted gross income. " But PLEASE, at least try to do some basic verification on the things you post, even the things you 'think' you know.
Olddeegee January 24, 2012 at 03:19 PM
I welcome the local guidance to help new and struggling businesses in the face of the tactics and the greed espoused by "local business people". The local economy has suffered due to a few select people who force issues to their favor and destroy existing business and historic homes in the name of development that never helps the bulk of the people in Plainfield. Government IS the people. It's the voice of those who don't own neighborhoods or multiple shell businesses to purchase and dispose of properties as if they were a hobby. Voters will voice their opinions on plans such as this, not the small group of wealthy bullies that have left Plainfield with empty strip malls, empty lots, and a downtown that looks like a rich wife's playground.
Tired of Gov't January 24, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Like most people who have never signed a paycheck you never think about ALL the expenses a business has. The numbers I used are real. The phone system number is on the low end of a hundred line system, (remember there were 40 people let go, how many remain?), a couple hundred bucks is what is asinine. And yes, each cubical will have a dedicated DSL and phone number if it is to survive. As for the "thousands in tax deductions" I don't claim them because its not worth the IRS hassle. You're all missing the real point. It is NOT the business of gov't to pick and choose who gets a subsidy. Maintain the streets, supply clean water and sewer, provide police and fire; and get out of the way! There are plenty of incubator rentals. If not, then Jerry & Tim can pony up their money, meet the excessive burdens of building in Plainfield, pay all the property taxes, maintain their property to Village standards, furnish the office, buy all the equipment and rent to the start-ups for $100 a cubicle. Don't pick my pocket through gov't coercion and then give it to my competition. You want a business - join the real world!
Tired of Gov't January 24, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Now for a positive view. Reach out to the park district who is renting space for activities; or to the Library District who needs more computer terminals and space. They are not competing with anyone but the Village for tax dollars.
Tim January 25, 2012 at 12:19 AM
If this is such a great deal, why are you not excited to move your business into one? If it's cheaper and provides better benefits to you than what you have now, you have no rational reason not to move into one. Are you making business decisions, or emotional ones?
Alijdfliawje January 25, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Why are people trying to evaluate cost versus a fictitious number thrown out in an interview? I would prefer that our governments stay out of our business also, but there are not any local incubators known and the local commercial space owners are not stepping up to build their own (or they don't know how or want to) and this has worked in other communities. And who would the Village be competing with?
Tired of Gov't January 25, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Tim, just because I CAN do something doesn't mean I SHOULD do something. Wrong is still wrong, even if legal! We will be judged by our own standards. If that is emotion, then so be it. Yes, I LOVE GOD
Tim January 25, 2012 at 07:56 PM
good for you. Looks like your competitors have nothing to worry about.

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