DSC_5569.jpg

Lee Williams moved into a larger space at the Lake Martin Innovation Center when another business moved out on its own, making room for more startups at the incubation center.

Lake Martin Innovation Center is a success story waiting to happen – over and over and over – and the business incubation model just off U.S. Highway 280 in Alexander City is at it again. With space now available for two startup businesses, Alexander City Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Business Development Jacob Meacham said the center is ready to help new tenants write their success stories.

“We recently saw two tenants move out into their own facilities in the community, and we’ve moved two existing tenants into the spaces that those two businesses occupied,” Meacham explained. “After operating at full capacity for more than a year, we’ve got room to bring in some new businesses.”

Applied Engineering and Science, a startup conceived by Bill Vaughn and Ronald Thompson, recently was purchased by Waggoner Engineering, and the startup entrepreneurs took positions with the new owner. In addition, Country Financial Insurance Agent Dylan Johnson moved from an office at LMIC into new space on Airport Drive.

With the exit of those two businesses, Lee Williams of Nowlin & Associates and Thomas Drake at A+ Phlebotomy moved from smaller offices into the larger, recently vacated work spaces.

“The space I have moved into is twice the size of the office I occupied when I came here, and I expect to move into another bigger space before I move out of the building,” Williams explained.

His new doubled office will give Williams space to meet with clients in a private conference room, where he could better accommodate personal consultations, larger groups and online meetings. In the new space, he also will be able to hire an assistant. At the same time, he can access all of the services that are offered to innovation center tenants. The Alexander City Chamber of Commerce manages the center and supports members and entrepreneurs through access to office equipment, receptionist services, business support and facilities that will foster and accommodate further growth.

“The way it’s set up here, there are mixtures of office space – some smaller, some larger. As my business grows, so can my space, but I still get the perks of being here,” Williams said.

Those perks include being housed in a facility that is consistently marketed and gets a lot of foot traffic.

“A lot of different groups come through here. There are workshops and meetings here all the time. It’s a clean place of business, and there is a receptionist that brings my clients back to my office. I can schedule the use of larger spaces when I need it, but I don’t have to maintain any of that, and the rent is affordable,” Williams said. “Even moving to another office so my business could grow was simple, and it wasn’t at all detrimental to business.”

Bill Vaughn said he and his business partner found the accommodations at LMIC far exceeded his expectations, though he had previously been associated with two other innovation centers.

“This has been the best one of the three I’ve been involved with,” Vaughn said. “The level of friendliness and service was better than expected. The accommodations are quite nice with very good printing capability and Wi-Fi, and Jacob Meacham, Carla, Ed – everyone here – were very helpful in any way they could.”

Vaughn and Thompson occupied their innovation center space for just one year and one month, but the usual cycle, Meacham said, is three to four years.

“That’s about the timeframe it takes to establish and develop a business until it’s ready for the next step,” he said. “The really remarkable thing about this center is that it is in a much different market than most, which are typically located in larger cities. To have a space like this here be as successful as it is shows that there’s a huge appetite for space for small, new and growing businesses that need amenities and shared spaces.”

Some tenants, like Dylan Johnson, need only temporary office space until their permanent facilities can be finished, Meacham said.

“Dylan had space on Airport Drive, but it wasn’t ready when he needed an office to work from. By coming here in the interim, he didn’t have to focus on the space, so he could use his resources to develop his business,” he explained.

“There’s no set demographic for the types of businesses that could take advantage of what’s offered here – technology, medical, financial – and there’s no age limits. We have experienced people who are starting up a retirement business and young people who are just starting out, and they build a camaraderie and help each other.

“We have good partners in the community that support new business and the space available to welcome them.”

Contact Meacham about services and facility-use memberships at 256-234-3461 or visit lakemartininnovationcenter.com.