UW Brings Record of Success to Casper Business Incubator
The Casper Area Economic Development Alliance and the University of Wyoming have signed an agreement for UW to operate Casper’s new business incubator.
The Casper Area Innovation Center now will become a branch of UW’s Wyoming Technology Business Center -- a business incubator and an outreach program that opened in 2006 to assist early-stage, high-growth companies with laboratory, office and shared conference room space and a state-of-the-art data center.
“We’re delighted to have the folks at UW involved, considering the expertise they bring in managing a facility of this sort,” says Bill Edwards, CAEDA’s president and CEO. “We couldn’t be more excited about the future of this project.”
The agreement between CAEDA and UW identifies the university as the interim manager of the Casper Area Innovation Center, allowing the WTBC staff to operate the incubator while a final lease agreement is negotiated. Jonathan Benson, Wyoming Technology Business Center CEO, says the WTBC staff has been helping identify potential clients for a couple of months, even as the agreement between CAEDA and UW was being negotiated.
“The university is pleased to become a partner in this important effort to help people with great ideas build their businesses in Casper,” says Bill Gern, UW’s vice president for research and economic development. “This is another example of our commitment to help new and existing businesses all across Wyoming, part of the university’s role as a leader in building the future for the state and the larger world.”
UW will have a three-person staff at the incubator. Joe Bennick, currently assistant director of the WTBC, will move to Casper in August to direct the Casper Area Innovation Center, says Benson, who plans to continue making regular visits to Casper. A business counselor also will relocate from Laramie to Casper. The equivalent of a full-time receptionist position -- likely filled by Casper College students -- will round out the staff.
The WTBC helps client companies grow larger and faster than they would otherwise, and to increase the ability of the entrepreneurs to manage and grow their own businesses, through one-on-one business counseling and executive coaching services. It now has 15 incubator clients, including firms in biotechnology, software/Internet development, hardware/sensor development and professional services. Collectively, these early stage companies have 34 full-time employees and 79 part-time employees including 16 students. In addition, the WTBC is actively working with six pre-venture clients in the Laramie area.
The WTBC has had four graduates from the incubator program. All graduating companies are approaching $3 million to $5 million in annual revenues (including a company that just sold to a large corporation) and collectively employ 95 people with an average salary of $65,000 per year. Of the current incubator clients, two are approaching graduation.
The Casper Area Innovation Center operates in a newly renovated and expanded facility that is located on the Platte River Commons, is owned by the Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board, and was originally the headquarters of the Amoco Refinery. The facility’s construction and operating partners are American National Bank; the Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board; Casper College; the City of Casper; the Economic Development Administration; the Economic Development Joint Powers Board; First Interstate Bank; Forward Casper; GSG Architecture; Hilltop National Bank; Platte River Crossing; Mick McMurry; the accounting firm of Porter, Muirhead, Cornia and Howard; the Natrona County Commission; Walmart; Wells Fargo Bank; and the Wyoming Business Council. U.S. Sen. John Barrasso assisted in securing federal funding.
The incubator currently has five clients, along with two long-term tenants renting office space on the facility’s top floor, Edwards says. Discussions are taking place with a couple of other potential clients.
“Casper really is a very interesting business community -- it’s a place that’s all about business,” Benson says. “We’re excited about the prospects of working with companies there, and we look forward to filling the building.”
The Casper Area Innovation Center, a business incubator in Casper’s Platte River Commons created by the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance and other partners, will become a branch of the University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Technology Business Center. (CAEDA Photo)