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Plenty of room in DeKalb County's small business incubator

A dozen office spaces sit vacant

Business folks don't know the space they're missing out on, according to local entrepreneur Carol Abrahamson.

She uses her office in the nearly 1-year-old DeKalb County Business Incubator to run a nonprofit called the Illinois Business Incubator Association as well as her start-up book consulting company Executive Authors. She also rents three cubicles for interns.

"Sometimes the interns will work in the lounge and camp out in the orange chairs," she said. "[The space] accomodates different syles of what the work demands."

Of the 16 offices in the building, 12 sit vacant. The incubator also rents 21 cubicles, and all spaces feature access to common areas, Wi-Fi, fiber optics and other amenities. Additionally, renters are able to pay for use of other rooms in the building.

A 100-square-foot office costs $250 per month, and a single cubicle is $75 per month. The largest office option is $500 per month for 145 square feet.

Abrahamson said the incubator provides a safe, quiet place to work outside of her home office. She can access the space at any hour of the day and usually comes in to work seven days per week, she said.

Tenant Dan Kenney said the space has been invaluable to operations.

Kenney, director of DeKalb County Community Gardens, said the nonprofit set up an office in the incubator around the time it first opened last August in the Community Outreach Building of the county health complex.

"We are very grateful," Kenney said. "DeKalb County Community Gardens would not be able to afford office space if it were not available here."

He said the nonprofit uses the conference room for meetings with its board of directors, committees and partnering groups. Kenney also uses the office for tasks like grant writing.

"We can meet people interested in gardening, and it gives us a central address people can associate with," he said.

The program has also provided the opportunity to network with other business owners and attend workshops, and Kenney thinks it has a lot of potential to help small businesses expand, he said.

The business incubator developed over the course of several County Board Economic Development Committee meetings as a way to attract and foster small business growth by providing affordable office space and mentorship.

Other current tenants include Omar Salguero, an attorney who provides legal services to immigrants with Salguero Law Office, and Matthew Sprong, a Northern Illinois University professor and rehab specialist with Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services, Inc.

Former DeKalb County economic development coordinator Mary Supple was manager of the incubator when it began, but since her retirement in November, the role has been taken on by current Coordinator Jolene Willis.

Derek Hiland, DeKalb County community development director, said the program is county-funded, so it is not at risk with other services affected by the state budget impasse. Goals for the program include marketing and providing a list of resources for the businesses, Hiland said.

"We're beginning in earnest to start up again and move forward," Hiland said.

He said his hope is that interest in the program will have increased and more businesses will be renting space in another year's time.

Willis attended her first meeting Tuesday with the incubator's board of directors, a group of local business leaders who are in charge of interviewing and vetting applicants that typically meets every other month.

"Businesses that are starting up don't have a lot of funding," Willis said, "but if they need a dedicated space, they want to get out of their house, this is another resource."

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