West Dayton Incubator to spur entrepreneurs

When the Dayton Arcade reopens, part of the facility is meant to help transform the region’s start-up and entrepreneurial community, and local officials now want to make sure that the complex benefits other Dayton neighborhoods.

The University of Dayton, one of the anchor tenants in the new arcade, is looking for a manager for what will be called the Greater West Dayton Incubator.

The incubator will connect The Hub at the Dayton Arcade and will allow staff, students and others associated with the Entrepreneurs Center and innovation hub to go into local neighborhoods to provide business support and other services, said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein. The Hub is a 100,000 square foot portion of the arcade that U.D. and TEC with jointly operate to give entrepreneurs space to develop innovations.

The city has contributed millions of dollars to help support the arcade project.

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Earlier this year, the city of Dayton approved a community benefits agreement that calls for the arcade’s partners to engage residents citywide to ensure the arcade redevelopment project benefits all citizens and neighborhoods.

The community benefits agreement, and the creation of the Greater West Dayton Incubator, are part of ongoing efforts to make the investment in the innovation hub have a broader impact, Dickstein said.

Accessibility and user-friendliness are extremely important, and an incubator will make it easy for citizens to receive help and guidance about starting, elevating and growing their businesses, she said.

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“It has to be easy to get to in order for a greater number of folks to take advantage of the opportunity,” Dickstein said. “Instead of making everyone come to The Hub of Innovation, this is an opportunity to drive resources, programs, opportunities out into our neighborhood centers.”

The Hub will have connections to all parts of Dayton, but how support is provided could be very different than what’s in store for greater West Dayton.

The project, still in its very early stages of planning, is an effort of U.D.’s L. William Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

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An official location in west Dayton has not been decided on yet, said Vince Lewis, director for the Crotty Center. It’s also not clear yet whether the Greater West Dayton Incubator will be the center’s only site, or if it could be the first of multiple incubators in Dayton neighborhoods.

“It really is about assuring everyone has access to the opportunity that we’re creating in the start up ecosystem in downtown Dayton,” Lewis said. “It is to provide a doorway to that ecosystem. … The way this all came about is, if you go back to the visioning process at U.D., after Dr. Spina took over, one of the conversations was around basically helping to support innovation and entrepreneurship all over the community and it was also a conversation around what we were doing at The Hub, the arcade. It tied into the Community Benefit Agreement that the city of Dayton created … is really about figuring out a way to tie in Dayton’s neighborhoods into the resources, activities, and support. They were these two paths that came together.”

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A venture announced in 2017 between U.D. and the Entrepreneurs Center makes up the Arcade Innovation Hub LLC, the arcade’s anchor tenant. The Hub is UD’s largest investment in downtown in university history.

The incubator’s timeline is still blurry, according to Lewis, but it’s likely the launch of the Greater West Dayton Incubator will align somewhat with the opening of the arcade.

Last spring, a group of U.D. entrepreneurship students working on a capstone project researched what the incubator will be and what kind of person will lead the project. The group’s recommendation was that somebody needed to be on board who can engage and create connections between the university and the business community in West Dayton.

“This individual will engage with U.D. students and faculty to help support small businesses and entrepreneurs in Greater West Dayton,” reads the online job posting for role of the Greater West Dayton Incubator manager. “This includes connecting businesses and entrepreneurs to resources at U.D. and in the broader community. The individual will work from an incubation site located within a West Dayton neighborhood.”

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The manager opening was posted almost two weeks ago, Lewis said, and there has been a lot of interest.

“For the university, the real benefit, the real opportunity, is for students to have an opportunity to engage with these businesses and work with start ups, help with business planning and other types of support,” Lewis said. “That’s really the beat of the university is experiential learning down at the arcade and then at the incubator. … It’s the desire to leverage the stuff that we’re trying to create at the arcade, to help support those neighborhoods as well.”

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