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Fredonia State to open high-tech business project

Fredonia State College has received a $3 million state grant to build a high-tech business incubator in Dunkirk, college officials announced this week.

The school plans to build and operate a 16,000-square-foot facility, the first of its kind in Chautauqua County.

It is intended to help Dunkirk move into today's computer- and research-driven economy by providing key support services to local entrepreneurs.

"It's more than just providing space. Space is one component," said Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner. "We're trying to make it a full-service facility."

The business incubator is scheduled to open in fall 2007, Hefner said. The college has not settled on a site for the building but has identified a location in Dunkirk's Empire Zone.

Fredonia will construct and operate the business incubator through its Center for Rural Regional Development and Governance. The incubator is part of a broader effort to have the college play a role in local economic development.

"Our economic future depends on taking the technology and research developed on our college campus and commercializing it into the marketplace," said State Sen. Catharine M. Young, R-Olean. Young -- as part of an effort that included Assemblyman William L. Parment, D-North Harmony, and the late State Sen. Patricia K. McGee, R-Franklinville -- helped win state aid for the project.

Fredonia officials had unveiled plans for the incubator in 2004.

At the time, the school was eyeing the Dunkirk Specialty Steel Co. building on Willowbrook Avenue. That site was later rejected, and the school now is considering a one- or two-acre former industrial site.

The school plans to build the incubator in Dunkirk instead of on its Fredonia campus to create more of a direct economic impact on the one-time industrial and shipping center.

Dunkirk does have another business incubator, which opened 12 years ago and currently hosts seven companies with about a dozen employees, said Diane G. Hewitt, director of economic development for Chautauqua Opportunities for Development, the non-profit that operates that incubator.

The high-tech incubator is meant to help Fredonia State researchers move their ideas from the laboratory into the marketplace, Hefner said.

The incubator also could help attract high-tech companies looking to invest in Western New York, and may provide jobs for new Fredonia graduates.

Staffers at the college will offer business consulting services, such as accounting expertise or help in designing a marketing plan. Incubator companies would be expected to move out within five years, hopefully to another site in Western New York, Hefner said.

The 16,000-square-foot incubator would hold at least 12 small companies, with a handful of employees each.

Hefner is hoping to obtain more public money for the project next year. That could expand its size to 24,000 square feet.

Design work and construction on the incubator could begin next year, with the opening set for fall 2007.


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