Auburn’s Economic Development Director Doug Lein addresses the gathering at the launching of a small business incubator – a partnership between the City and the Port of Seattle. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

Auburn launches small business incubator in partnership with Port of Seattle

You’ve got a killer idea for a business.

Great. Marvelous. Outstanding.

Now, you’ve gotta put in on paper, decide who your customers will be, figure out how to develop your product and who’s going to help you make and deliver it.

A bit overwhelming? No doubt.

That’s where Auburn’s new 1,500-square-foot business incubator comes in: helping local entrepreneurs move their ideas along the path to working realities and to act as a resource for business hatchlings to speed their growth and success and reduce the likelihood of their going toes up.

Last week, in partnership with the Port of Seattle and the State Department of Commerce, the City of Auburn celebrated the grand opening of its “Dream Center” at the Sound Transit Station.

“Our ultimate goal is to nurture innovation through a collaborative community of entrepreneurship that will create new jobs and enhance the quality of life in the community,” said Mayor Nancy Backus.

The long-term objective, Backus said, is to increase middle-wage jobs through economic growth, promote small business growth and workforce development in the region, and help companies sink their roots deep in the Auburn community so they become permanent contributors to the overall vitality, diversity and growth of the city’s economy.

What the incubator provides inside is space for a minimum of 10 businesses, with a mix of working, communal and meeting areas. And, given the incubator’s location, onsite transportation access to light rail and the entire Puget Sound Region is literally seconds away.

To make that all possible, Port Commissioner Tom Albro said, the Port of Seattle in 2017 provided the city of Auburn with a $65,000 economic development grant, one of more than $1 million in such grants the Port awarded last year to 38 entities.

“We responded to a very good idea that the City Council and Auburn’s Economic Development Director Doug Lein had put together: that people in the area who had business ideas or wanted to come to this area could come to this place, work on them, work with other people who had business ideas and refine their ideas into something they’re willing to launch into a business.

“And maybe,” Albro continued, “during the early days of their business, they would still be part of this. The idea is to create more businesses that will be in Auburn. And that’s a good thing.”

Years ago, Councilmember Rich Wagner and former Councilmember Sue Singer first tested the waters for a business incubator in Auburn. At first they thought about settling one at the Auburn Environmental Park and directing it to the creation of green businesses. But when that failed to pan out, they turned their attention to the old Auburn Post Office on Auburn Avenue, which is now on track to become a new culture and arts center.

“But I think having this next to the train station is a really good move,” Wagner said. His fondest hope, he said, is to have about one start-up happen a year that brings to the city a dozen, and maybe, over time, hundreds of jobs.

“By getting started here, (the startups) can have enough background to a get a loan from a bank and hire 20 people. Sometimes the cliff startups face is they need a bunch of people, for instance, engineers, and they don’t have a way to get it done,” Wagner said.

The City has contracted with Al Lawati, who helps the City with its marketing initiatives, to run the Dream Center.

“You can have amazing initiatives, but if nobody knows about them, it’s like they don’t exist,” La Wati explained.“My job is to ensure that your target audience knows about your initiatives.”

For more information, contact Lein at dlein@auburnwa.gov.

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