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Cottage Grove's Business Enterprise Center to get its first tenants

For mere pennies on the dollar, local start-up businesses can move into the Business Enterprise Center, formerly the Cottage Grove City Hall, and begin their journey toward entrepreneurial success.

Following the business accelerator model which has become a nationally recognized way of helping small businesses grow, the BEC offers affordable work space and supportive services to aspiring entrepreneurs. Recently, two businesses have taken advantage of the business incubator-style atmosphere and will soon make the BEC their temporary home.

Economic Development Director Danette Parr said area businesses Connex Space and Gophermods have agreed to pay the inexpensive $6 per square foot rent for a chance to substantially grow their businesses.

"We want to foster that entrepreneurial spirit and also grow our business park at the same time," Parr said.

Connex Space is a local start-up that specializes in creating sound-masking materials and office furniture, and Gophermods, which has a location in Minneapolis, specializes in repairing gaming consoles and other electronic devices such as cellphones and tablets.

The current tenants will take up approximately 2,000 square feet of the building and will share what Parr said are common services such as copiers and printers.

The 21,480-square-foot building is meant to facilitate the work of numerous tenants at any given time in an array of office setups such as suites, enclosed or open cubicles, and laboratories. With a 6,000-square-foot garage in the basement of the building, Parr said the city is looking for any businesses that use computer numerical control machines or other specialized machinery.

Another important factor of the program is that the BEC is meant to be a temporary home for the businesses, Parr said. The basis of the program is that with the help of the support services, the business will become successful and graduate to a permanent building somewhere in the community within three years. While stationed in the former city hall, businesses will have access to support services, training events, networking opportunities, and a mentorship program.

"The point of this is not to make money for the city," Parr stressed. "This is a long-term investment that hopefully will create long-term economic development within the city of Cottage Grove. We want to offer these businesses all the help they need because we want them to feel supported so they stay in our community."

Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey shared the mutual hope of wanting the businesses to stay local and is hoping they can move into future developments along the West Point Douglas corridor.

"I think this is a great start and once we get these first two businesses in the door there will only be more," Bailey said. "The city does have property along the corridor and maybe there is the opportunity for them to grow into that area. It's a win- win situation for both the business and the city of Cottage Grove."

The BEC building was vacated last year when city officials moved to the recently constructed, nearly $15 million city hall and public safety building on Ravine Parkway.