It was a day that has been in the making since the announcement in 2007 that a SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator would be built in Dunkirk. Like a proud parent, Incubator Director Robert Fritzinger was pleased to show off both the building and some of the successful startup companies the facility and its support staff have helped get going.
Attendees at the open house were offered tours of the two-story facility located on Central Avenue one block from the city pier and got to talk to some of the principals of the startups. Interim Provost Kevin Kearns said the Incubator was built to help with economic development in the region before turning things over to Fritzinger.
"Our objective here with this project is to give the excellent students who graduate from Fredonia a place to come to work," Fritzinger stated. "Interns, jobs, and by the way, please come and build your own business. Three potentials for students and entrepreneurs."
OBSERVER Photos by Gib Snyder
Top: Left to right, Textivia co-owner Dave Christopher and SUNY Fredonia student and intern Greg Minchak. Textivia was the first SUNY Fredonia Technology Incuba-tor graduate to locate in Dunkirk.
Above: Robert Fritzinger welcomes attendees to the SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator open house Tuesday. Fritzinger is director of the Incubator’s operations.
Stating the economic climate was not perfect for starting a business, Fritzinger said it was starting to pick up and the businesses in the room were proof.
"We all hope when we do this next year we're going to be struggling with trying to figure out how to find space to do it in because this is not the full set of companies affiliated with the Incubator. ... This is the group of people who are a finished product and into the market," he added. "Next year we'll look different, we'll look bigger, we'll be running faster and harder and we're proud of that fact.
"This project exists for one specific reason. There's a lot of research that says that if a community does not invest in putting in some new technology-oriented businesses in the community it runs the risk of losing its youth. We're affiliated with a great college with a great set of curriculums and it creates an opportunity for us to make an investment here, build those types of businesses, and then capture our kids and keep them here and turn the tide and start to rebuild the area. That's what we're dedicated to, that's what we're going to keep on working on."
The first Incubator graduate to stay local is Textivia, which moved to the Chadwick Bay Professional Building one block up on Central Avenue in October. Dave Christopher is one of the owners and was asked what his company does.
"We do cross-platform integration of websites and really integrate social media inside of those. We build socially shareable websites, you're talking about Facebook, Twitter, ... things where users are on," he replied. "Maybe every business isn't on it but their clients can share their brands if it's set up right. Then really helping businesses be found for the products they offer, not just their names. ... It's really about not being just an online brochure, which is what most websites are. The companies really need to present themselves in a clever way but also be very interactive."
Christopher added the Incubator helped out with leads, contacts and good advice. Asked how big he thinks the company can grow, Christopher said the sky is the limit.
"It can be a 50-man operation in a couple years. ... We've hired five people since we graduated from the Incubator," he added. "We're actually looking for more. ... We want to continue to grow in the area."
One area of growth is being covered by another Incubator tenant, the Center for Sports Skills Measurement & Improvement. Kevin Morse is the founder, president and chief executive officer of the company.
"We're democratizing youth athletics. We measure baseball and softball players all over the country. We have 23 independent testing centers from California, Georgia, North Carolina, the northeast coast," Morse said of his company. "We have nine more coming in the next 60 days and we've just signed agreements with 25 tournaments to be in front of 25,000 players this summer. What we do is we test fastball speed, arm speed by positions, infield outfield and catcher, and most important for hitters, we test the speed of the ball coming off the bat."
Morse said all testing is videotaped and leader boards are created showing where a player ranks at the national state and county levels. Colleges from across the country are using the program to help with scouting.
Morse agreed his company is doing a lot of the legwork scouts used to do without rating players.
"All we're saying is here's a number and coach, you decide if you want to go see them play," Morse explained. "The number we're going to give you is standardized, it's relevant and it's verifiable. ... It's getting some very interesting traction around the country. We're very excited to be part of the Incubator and all of the local community and look forward to many more years."
Morse added more sports will be added to the testing with adult ratings to be added.
A certified women-owned business, iKoss Consulting, is also part of the Incubator mix. Jennifer Cameron was the company's representative at the event and said the company has eight consultants and is looking to add two more shortly. The company specializes in human resource related projects for Fortune 1000 companies within the food service, hospitality and retail sectors.
"At this point in time we employ people in western New York and they bring dollars in from northern Virginia," she explained. "We do offer a little bit of flexibility, which is great. ... On average our consultants work between 30 and 35 hours so if you're a woman and you have a family and you can work out of your house, sometimes this kind of employment situation works really well."
Cameron did point out the company does have male employees.
Part of the purpose of the open house was to show the local community the Incubator is accomplishing its goals. As Incubator officials pointed out, the parking lot is empty much of the time because people are on the road trying to grow their companies.
The Incubator website is located at incubator.fredonia.edu.
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