“A first for Nebraska tribes,” is the recently opened business incubator, said Judi Meyer, executive director of Ho-Chunk Community Development Corporation (HCCDC). The business incubator, Business Development Center (BDC), is operated by HCCDC. A Nebraska nonprofit corporation, HCCDC is dedicated to enhancing the economic development of the Winnebago and Omaha Tribes and all of Thurston County since its inception in December 2000.
Walthill, Neb. (pop. 909), is home to this business incubator, which held its grand opening in May 2003. BDC is in the former electric power plant located on Tallman St., in the downtown area. Originally built in 1910, the plant had stood empty for the past 20-plus years.
Renovating the existing 3,900 sq. ft. building was the most cost effective way for HCCDC to achieve its goal of establishing a business incubator. To financially fulfill the goal, Walthill, with the support of HCCDC, applied for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), administered by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. Governor Mike Johanns awarded Walthill $105,000 in CDBG funds for the renovation of the Tallman Street building. HCCDC also received $200,000 in financial backing from a USDA Rural Development Rural Business Enterprise Grant. HCCDC leveraged the grants with $151,000 from its own finances.
The BDC can accommodate five business incubator spaces which can be leased by start-up businesses. A business library and technology training stations also are located in the BDC. The BDC staff provides technical assistance and business expertise to start-ups and other business clients. It also aids clients through a microloan program and loan application support. The BDC is in the process of establishing business/technology training workshops and courses through a partnership with Nebraska EDGE, a University of Nebraska–Lincoln program.
Currently, the BDC is leasing incubator space to two businesses – Allnative (office products supplier) and Inter-Tribal Agency for Workers’ Compensation Organization. Since March 2003, it has also served 22 new and existing small business clients with business, technical, and loan application assistance.
Establishment of the BDC also created employment opportunities. The business incubator staffs 1.75 FTE positions to assist businesses and manage daily operations. Combined, the two start-ups employ 2.5 FTE positions.
The future looks bright for the BDC with its expected growth. BDC staff plan to finish the curriculum for the business/technology training courses in the near future and enroll up to 30 participants per year. BDC also expects to fill the remaining incubator spaces and provide up to seven businesses with assistance through the microloan program in the next year. The staff also plans to continue the already successful business and technical assistance to existing and start-up small businesses.
“The business incubator is a great addition to the area, since it was lacking the structure to start a business. Residents had the desire and drive to create start-ups, but no assistance was available. With this addition, economic development will be fostered through new business growth,” said Meyer.
Walthill Business Incubator
Ho-Chunk Community Development Corporation (Grant Partner)
PO Box 264
106 Tallman Street
Walthill, NE 68067
Mark Werthmann (DED Representative)
(402) 471-3760 • (800) 426-6505