Healdsburg exploring own incubator

HEALDSBURG -- In an era of slow growth and continuing high unemployment, Healdsburg has become the latest city to begin exploring ways to increase jobs, stimulate commercial occupancy and grow its tax base by utilizing the strength of its existing technology hub to attract and retain firms and support a business incubator.

Healdsburg joins groups throughout the North Bay with similar objectives: iHub in Rohnert Park, the proposed Trellis Napa Valley incubator, a taskforce by the Windsor Chamber and town of Windsor, Santa Rosa Chamber’s BEST program, Work Petaluma and other economic development models throughout the region. 

Early stage efforts in Healdsburg focus on its clean and green high-tech business nucleus to provide ways to support existing wine and food industry players and their supply chains, as well as assist startups and entrepreneurs in gaining market traction.

“The technology sector has a larger multiplier effect on the local economic and adds diversification with low infrastructure and environmental impacts,” according to Jennifer LeBrett, director of business and membership development for the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.

The chamber is working with a city council economic development steering committee task force, led by Assistant City Manager David Mickaelian, to consider potential initiatives.

For example, space for a proposed incubator has been identified at the Community Development Center near city hall. The center would be relocated.

He said that while some startups need inexpensive space and infrastructure facilities, others may only require counsel on how to develop business pro forma plans, etc.

 “Our goal is to figure out what works best for Healdsburg and then to develop a plan,” Mr. Mickaelian said.

“The current One Stop development program, established a year ago, streamlines the development and permitting process for business seeking to relocate, get established or expand. We are currently looking at ways to reduce and/or defer capacity charges and impact fees.”

He said monthly open forum meetings are also held with business leaders and the community to address economic issues, discuss town policies and identify resources.

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