By Maureen Werther
Kate Baker has been at her new job for two months. As director of SUNY Adirondack’s new Business Central—a program devoted to fostering entrepreneurship and developing relationships between students, community members and regional businesses in Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties—her job is to facilitate the growth of the region through entrepreneurship, collaboration and innovation.
Baker is no stranger to entrepreneurial endeavors and helping people start new businesses. She came to SUNY Adirondack with 11 years of experience under her belt from her tenure with the SUNY Albany’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), where she helped more than 1100 new businesses in the Capital Region.
Business Central officially opened its doors on Jan. 8 in the newly built Adirondack Hall’s North wing. Baker described it as a “one-stop shop,” open to both students and members of the surrounding region to receive support and assistance as they contemplate starting up a new business or are looking to expand an existing business. It is also a place for students to come who are looking for internships or full-time employment opportunities.
Business Central is part of the 13,250-square-foot building addition and it offers a 4,100-square-foot conference space – the Northwest Bay Conference Center. Baker said it can accommodate up to 300 people.
It can also be divided into three smaller rooms. The college intends to use the space for business meetings, workshops and conferences, and members of the community will be able to rent out the space for their own business or training needs. An adjacent catering kitchen allows for food to be warmed and served at meetings.
Baker said that Adirondack Hall’s north wing is “dedicated 100 percent to workforce development,” either through continuing education or business initiatives.
In addition to the larger conference space, there is also a center for entrepreneurs—a dedicated space that can accommodate approximately 20 people.
Baker said SUNY Adirondack took a hard look at the business resources that are already available in the area and then looked at where there were gaps and how to fill them. Business Central offers a location where other groups, such as Center for Economic Growth (CEG), Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), and EDC Warren County can meet with small businesses and others looking to start up a business or bring a business into the region.
The location will be home to state-funded programs such as the Microenterprise Assistance Programs and Start-Up New York.
It is also part of the Innovate 518 program and has the “hot spot” designation, which it shares with CEG and SUNY Albany. It is a regional program offered throughout New York state and allows each individual region to offer specific benefits to start-up businesses, according to Baker. This is a recent designation and is part of the statewide initiative to facilitate business development in areas such as Warren and Washington counties, where rapid growth is occurring.
Baker said they are also developing SUNY-specific programs, one of which is a business contest to be held in the fall.
Baker said that the details are still being ironed out. A panel of judges will review business plans for new concepts, as well as plans for existing businesses, to expand their current operations. The contest will be open to businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs in Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties.
They will also be offering “boot camp” programs to help people prepare for the competition. Baker said “everything we will be doing is free of charge or a minimal charge.”
She said Business Central also has an office dedicated to the other collaborative services providers, such as the SBDC or CEG, for meeting with clients and helping businesses with workforce development.
“This is a great first stop when you’re not sure where to go,” said Baker.
Having worked with so many small businesses in the last dozen years, Baker plans to offer tips for small businesses to help ensure their survival. Most small businesses fail because they lack the systems and financial resources necessary to survive and thrive. Business Central will help connect entrepreneurs with the tools and resources for aiding in their growth and survival in the crucial first years and beyond.
Baker said Business Central needs to “cover its bases” by developing the resources and support networks for the large variety of niches that are cropping up in the region.
“We are seeing a little bit of everything in this market,” she said. “It includes urban, suburban and rural. There is no one defining characteristic. There are great agriculture businesses, especially farms, that are going into shelf-ready products to be better able to control their cash flow,.”
She said there is also a lot of manufacturing and service-oriented businesses and a lot of businesses that require telecommuting.
“Its not all tourism in this region. Of course, we continue to see a growth in tourism, but we also have of many other things happening here. It’s really nice to be involved in things that are aiding the economic development of the region,” said Baker.