Action taken by the Great Plains Technology Center Board of Education could lead to significant job creation and support entrepreneurship in Comanche County. The GPTC Board of Education at its October meeting selected Renaissance Architect and Engineering LLC of Oklahoma City to design the facility. The multi-tenant incubator will serve start-up businesses in light manufacturing, services and commercial food production.
The choice of Renaissance was the culmination of a six month search process. Great Plains received initial proposals from 17 architectural firms. A three person panel including, Deputy Superintendent Clarence Fortney and Director of Maintenance, Jack Whiteman and me narrowed down the list to six firms. We visited buildings designed by all six finalists to get a feel for the quality and cost of their work. The selection of Renaissance was a unanimous choice.
Renaissance is currently working on another high-profile project in Lawton—the new softball field and complex—currently under construction at Cameron University.
What really stood out about Renaissance was the satisfaction of their past clients. Many schools have engaged Renaissance for multiple projects. The firm has a reputation for finishing projects under budget. This was an extremely important factor to our Board members.
The facility will be constructed on the east side of the Lawton campus with access from Park Ridge Boulevard. An initial target budget of $3-3,500,000 has been established for the project.
Great Plains will use a combination of existing and future funds, grants and private contributions to pay for the facility. Renaissance will receive six percent of the cost of the project.
Great Plains looked at purchasing a local building to modify as an incubator but didn’t find anything that was suitable or cost-effective. The 20,000 square foot building will be located to the east of the Economic Development Center at the Lawton campus. We envision the facility will be oriented with the front of the building facing the east or northeast. The front appearance of the facility should be such that the residential neighbors have a pleasing view as it will present more of a business office building look as opposed to a school facility. A permanent water feature could be located in front of the building which could be clad with natural stone.
Great Plains has studied the need for such a facility for a number of years. Our beliefs were validated through an independent feasibility study conducted last fall by Long Performance Advisors whose principal is a Board member of the National Business Incubator Associate. The feasibility study included interviews of various members of the Lawton business community as well as other providers of business development services across southwest Oklahoma. The findings indicated a very strong possibility of significant job creation if the facility was constructed.
We also believe the incubator will spur and support local entrepreneurship. Design and operation of the facility has been purposely undertaken to compliment the CETES center at Cameron University. We envision working very closely from a manufacturing perspective with the CETES technology-related-incubator. This partnership will help us help businesses create more good jobs and develop greater economic wealth right here in Lawton and southwest Oklahoma.
The incubator would include eight to 10 offices for businesses engaged in services, four shops, approximately 2,000 to 2,500 square feet each that are customized for light manufacturing and a commercial kitchen that will be shared by multiple tenants.
Great Plains hopes to have a completed architectural design by spring of 2013 with a ground breaking as early as June. The business incubator could be open for business by early 2014.
The startup businesses that locate in the incubator will have easy access to advice and services from our Economic Development Center professionals. They will also share basic services such as custodial, secretarial, copying and access to the internet. They will also network with each other and have access to other client’s services, such as a light manufacturer hiring an accountant who is a fellow incubator tenant to handle bookkeeping chores. There could be a tremendous amount of synergy that takes place. We anticipate most incubator clients will stay on-site up to three years before moving to private-sector space.
There are nearly 900 business incubators across the United States. Job creation and increased tax revenue are two of the primary benefits to a community that has an incubator. Only about 20 per cent of new business start-ups in these areas we’ve targeted succeed without help. When they are located in a business incubator their success rate increases to above 70 percent.
A metal roof is envisioned for the facility with the possible exception of the manufacturing bays.
The front of the facility should feature a portico for passenger drop off. Extending the entry floor material under the portico would be a desirable feature. A clear story near the entrance would provide an interesting architectural design feature.
We would like to see the reception area and common work area/break room separated from the entry/hall area by a glass wall to provide an open look. The entry should feature tile or stone floor covering while the remainder of the floor covering should be carpeted with the exception of the bathroom and shop areas. The bathrooms should be tiled and the manufacturing shops areas should have either concrete or polished concrete floors.
We would prefer durable wall coverings in all of the public spaces and drywall ceilings where appropriate.
Each of the tenant office spaces should be identical in finish and might provide either a 12 x 12 or 12 x 15 foot workspace with carpeted floors, drywall and suspending ceilings. The manufacturing spaces need to provide tenants with a great deal of flexibility as their needs cannot be determined at this time. We anticipate four shop spaces of approximately 2,000-2,500 square feet each with 20-24 foot ceilings, compressed air, floor drains, a work sink, and significant electrical service. Each bay should be provided with an interior entrance and well as a three-foot exterior door and a 12 x 15 overhead door. The commercial kitchen space will be designed in conjunction with the kitchen consultant. We envision the kitchen space would need to be designed to accommodate the needs of specialty food producers as well as catering businesses. Large prep areas and tenant storage are concerns for the kitchen area.
Parking should be provided for 30-40 cars in the front or on the side of the facility.
The front of the facility would contain a reception area, the facility manager’s office, and eight to ten offices for service type businesses. The common workspace, break rooms, bathrooms, the commercial kitchen and board room/presentation room spaces could be in the center of the facility with the manufacturing bays in the rear of the building with the overhead doors facing west toward the tech center’s main campus.