Business Incubator


Genoa Spring BoardIt’s easy to recognize a winner. Genoa Main Street, Inc. is a nationally recognized, award winning non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and improving Genoa’s downtown district. For the past 13 years the organization has built an impressive track record of successful projects and events that bring people downtown, as well as serving a key role in recruiting new businesses to Genoa.

With record level unemployment in DeKalb County, Genoa Main Street is launching Genoa Springboard, a small business incubator in a downtown building. Entrepreneurs are encouraged through low cost rent and the sharing of other expenses and resources to launch their business model in the downtown district. Jobs are created. Shoppers for the downtown shops and restaurants are built in to the system. Tax revenue is created. It just don’t get much better.

From their website:

What Is Genoa Springboard?
Genoa Springboard is a small business incubator. A small business incubator is a building housing one or more new businesses and offering them special advantages. These advantages can include more affordable rents, shared business services, equipment and furnishings, and access to professional, technical and financial assistance during early, critical stages of development.

Genoa Main Street, Inc. (GMS) is opening a small business incubator in downtown Genoa later this year. Genoa Springboard will be located in a high visibility Main Street building. GMS will lease space in the building to 2-4 tenants, depending on their space needs. Tenants will have the advantages of the incubator for a specified period of time, generally 1-3 years. Tenants are expected to remain in downtown Genoa after they have graduated from the incubator program.

Who can apply to be in the Incubator?
 Business start-ups looking for their first commercial location, or
 Existing businesses looking to relocate or expand to downtown Genoa
 Shops, food and beverage outlets, personal services, professional offices, business services and other
types of businesses will be considered

Get more information, here.


  1. These are available from NIU's library to borrow for free to anyone who lives here who asks for a guest card or order them from the DeKalb Public Library through interlibrary loan. I skipped the ones on Thailand:

    Community organizing and development / Herbert J. Rubin and Irene Rubin.
    HN90.C6 R7241986
    available, NIU–Main Collection–FML

    # Renewing hope within neighborhoods of despair : the community-based development model / Herbert J. Rubin.
    # Author:Rubin, Herbert J.
    # Publisher:Albany : State University of New York Press, c2000.
    # NIU–Main Collection–FML
    # Call Number: HN90.C6 R735 2000

  2. Now Herb, you mentioned literature available on incubators and you also refer to preparing one book. You never did fully state that it was you that you were referring to or that it was you that had a book out on incubators.

    How you can say that I was attacking you credibility in writing these books when you don't refer to name or author.

    It is a fact that not every book ever written by someone is the gospel truth about the subject it was written about. Actually, I wouldn't mind one day actually sitting down and reading a book that you have written. I honestly think that there are a few more who would like to Herb.

  3. Ivan,
    it was a book I wrote. i guess nothing I do has any credibility with you; personally I find that very discouraging.

    I've visited first hand probably half a dozen to a dozen such incubators — small town one in Wisconsin some place, central Ohio some place, Kansas City, Boston, Philadelphia, and a feminist incubator in Athens Ohio, plus I suspect a few more. Oh, yes, one in San Francisco. Oh, yes, Chicago. Small town ones would be similar to the ones we could develop; the big city ones were either women or minority focused so had different requirements and funding sources. Oh, a native American one in Minneapolis (St. Paul?, I forget)

    Mac, I had a conversation (inspired by you) on the use of one facility downtown in the way you suggest. That facility is now occupied by a business. I've periodically mentioned the idea and will continue to do so.

    Ideas of appropriate locations would be appreciated. If memory serves me correct Dekalb had some incubators on state street? or somewhere near there. I think a specialty wood worker opened up there and I don't remember much more.

    Totally agree with you Mac on the 'pride aspects'. Again, since it based on academic research, mine, it might not have any credibility, But one thing I learned in talking to those who set up even failed incubators and programs to help low income start up businesses was that even when the enterprise failed as a business, the lower income participants' lives were changed to the best. (One example were women in bad relationships who when they got some business training had courage enough to leave their male partners, even when the new busines didn't make it. )

    To end on a lighter note: Sam Adams Beer was original developed in an incubator in a really yucky Boston neighborhood, but the incubator survived originally only through the largesse of a foundation and I think the city. The day I visited it they were testing a new flavored beer that I found awful and they only provided one glass so you had to drink the test brew before getting anything else.

  4. What works in Genoa won't work in DeKalb–not at this time, at least. Genoa Main Street has a long and strong tradition of volunteer support while DeKalb Re:New won't take on anything they can't just throw TIF money at. Most DeKalbians I know take pride in their volunteer causes so I would say Re:New will have become a real success when it does what it needs to do to claim an army of volunteers.

    • Original downtown districts, like those in Genoa and DeKalb, have served well in the role of small business incubators for quite some time. They adapted to that role as Interstates and by-passes created greener pastures for commercial development. A common denominator among start-up businesses is the need for low rents.

      Another commonality is the high failure rate for start-ups. The marketplace pulls its own weeds.

      But what bean counters call failure is limited to the bottom line. I understand Thomas Edison didn't enjoy a wildly successful career as an entrepreneur. And many benefited from his failures. Several early employees went on the have quite successful careers.

      It's in the private sector job creation. A little means a lot — especially for those un-or-under-employed with too much pride to ask for assistance. The potential for putting your own bread on the table is a big boost for self esteem and that's a real social value.

      Genoa's approach is a good one. Pay as you go. Take advantage of the Pareto Principle. Offer short term leases. Network with your existing local businesses and organizations for mentorship. They're starting with 2-4 businesses. Very low risk factor as far as taxpayers are concerned.

  5. Economic times are probably very different Herb. Not everything that is new needs to have its own staff and manager. With the slow down that many city's are experiencing, current city staff and offices could very well easily be used for this.

    That is the problem with books Herb, dependent on the author and that authors feeling towards a subject or project, that book could come off being very negative. Sometimes the real experience must take over despite the opinion of a book or its author.

  6. Good luck to Genoa.
    There is a literature on incubators (that I'm now a decade out of date on) that showed the real difficulty of successfully running a start up incubator without having paid managerial staff to run it, mentor businesses etc.
    We had talked about incubators in downtown, the space we had looked at is now used by a commercial firm, and I doubt if there would be support for paying for an incubator manager.

    In preparing one book I visited a series of incubators (admittedly in low income communities as that was the topic of my book) and the very best ones were economically marginal, though were serving a social purpose.

  7. Genoa is getting so many things right. First there was the real ice skating rink built with volunteers and very little money. The next project will be to turn an empty lot into a park, with volunteer labor and donated materials.

    Learn DeKalb, learn.

  8. DeKalb could easily do the same in our downtown and much more with the TIF District and the TIF funds they have. Great for Genoa to implement this great idea first.

    Where is DeKalb? Maybe Renew:DeKalb might get an idea here.

  9. Score another one for Genoa Main Street! This is a perfect way to directly help a downtown area IMO. It helps start up businesses, fills in downtown (hopefully progressively so as time goes on), gives residents new shopping choices AND will bring in sales tax revenue.

    This is a collaborative effort too. According to the material: While Genoa Main Street, Inc. will manage the incubator, the Springboard team consists of a variety of outstanding professionals, including: The City of Genoa, The Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce, NIU, Kishwaukee College, DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation and several private businesses.

    Because the start up businesses will pay rent, I bet this program isn't costing much either. Great job Genoa!

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