The INCubator in the Hamilton County Business Development Center is an "entrepreneurial sanctuary," providing space and support services for a range of up and coming businesses.
With nearly 600 graduates in 30 years, and the ability to house up to 70 businesses at a time, the INCubator's businesses include those new on the scene, recent graduates launching into the local market and program alumni who continue to create jobs.
For the past year and a half, Clea Klagstad, CEO and founder of Circadian Consulting, has been learning about the commercial development process in Tennessee. What types of permits and regulations are required prior to a new build? How do Tennessee's regulations differ from those in other states? How can the process improve?
Ms. Klagstad received her master's degree in floristic studies under Dwayne Estes, Ph.D., the executive director of the Southeastern Grasslands Initiative and associate professor at Austin Peay State University. She has since worked for the state government of Montana and as a consultant working on project components in Alaska, North Dakota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas and Canada.
Ms. Klagstad has been focused on the development of a comprehensive environmental consulting process that protects natural resources without delaying construction schedules. She has met with agency representatives in Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga to better understand what the improvements to those processes might look like.
"Our federal and state rules change constantly, depending on the leadership of our country, but there are a number of ways that we can incentivize developers to do the right thing," Ms. Klagstad said. "Most of the developers we have worked with so far would love to help. They are so busy with their work already, it is difficult for them to learn a new process and implement the change. And that's where we come in."
Over the next three years, Ms. Klagstad hopes to survey and protect sensitive areas of the city.
"While I am concerned about the concrete-lined ditches on the side of the road, areas that are historically less disturbed and within a certain distance of known listed species are a different story," she said. "Additionally, let's replace more lawn spaces with a native grass. It takes about a year or two to maintain it, but we will spend far less on water and fertilizer and encourage pollinators and native species over the long term. The amount of sustainable alternatives available to us are endless. We just need to start implementing them on a project by project basis."
Circadian Consulting currently works with several local commercial developers and civil engineering firms to build new neighborhoods, community facilities and mitigation banks. They look forward to allocating additional resources to bidding processes related to the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and Women's Business Enterprise certifications they received earlier this year.
"Everyone I spoke to about the INCubator encouraged me to join," Ms. Klagstad said. "My clients were even more supportive. And you cannot find a more welcoming community. I have already met with other business owners about partnership opportunities. Within the first week, I had received game-changing business advice I will remember for the rest of my life."
Another new INCubator client, Barnett Jones Wilson, LLC, is a structural engineering firm that also works on commercial assignments, as well as industrial projects of all sizes. The company prides itself on "combining design experience with modern design tools such as 3-D modeling and integrated analysis software to produce high quality work."
The Chattanooga office's founders moved from Tuscaloosa, Al. Chattanooga in January to be closer to the Southeast's world class climbing. Prior to the move, the couple drove four to six hours each weekend to the nearest climbing gym in Birmingham.
"Now that our dream of being closer to some of the best areas in the world to rock climb has come true, my dream has evolved to opening a successful branch office of Barnett Jones Wilson, LLC in Chattanooga," Colby Butterfield said. "The INCubator has made a Chattanooga office possible by giving me a space to work productively while keeping me close to current and potential clients. If a client has a problem, I can be there promptly and that has a huge impact on maintaining relationships with the people that give me work."
"While Chattanooga is a relatively big city, at least compared to where I'm from, the community still has a small feel to it. The architects, engineers, contractors, really anyone I've spoken with since moving have not only been willing to talk to me, but to connect me with others I may be able to help."
"The INCubator in the Business Development Center supports a range of businesses, and we're proud of that," said Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger. "Our businesses and graduates diversify our local economy, and are expert in fields ranging from engineering and manufacturing to graphic design and financial planning."
Bridge Financial Planning launches from the INCubator to the Republic building downtown after growing their business and employee count.
Owner Jennifer Harper has more than 15 years of experience in investing and financial planning.
"The choice to start Bridge Financial Planning in the INCubator was a good one,” Ms. Harper said. “My clients appreciate that I took my own advice by being financially responsible, and it allowed me to hire my first employee earlier than I would have been able to otherwise. It's amazing to see what is happening in that building. There are many small businesses launching great ideas and growing businesses that will change the future of Chattanooga and beyond.”