POCATELLO — In an effort to make itself more accessible to area businesses and entrepreneurs, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development has opened a new outreach office in Old Town Pocatello.
Once the COVID-19 outbreak has passed, CEED, which is part of Idaho State University’s College of Business, will have the office open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays at 135 N. Main St. The space was donated to CEED by Michael Snyder, who owns Cottonwood Junction, a consignment shop located in the adjacent space to the north on Main Street.
According to CEED’s website, the organization “fosters entrepreneurship and economic development in Southeastern Idaho through partnerships with the business community, the Idaho State University College of Business and the university at large.”
CEED Director Jeff Street said his organization has been looking for an easily accessible off-campus outreach office and business incubator space since 2015. The campus CEED office, which is located on the third floor of the College of Business building at ISU, is “difficult and sometimes a bit intimidating for small business owners and people from the community to find us,” Street said, which makes it hard for community members to take advantage of the programs CEED represents.
“We wanted free parking, an easily accessible space with high visibility and, ideally, a connection to the programs that we have on campus to help small businesses,” Street said.
After years of searching, the space at Cottonwood Junction will satisfy the outreach office part of the plan, but it’s not large enough to establish a business incubator space.
“I’ve looked everywhere from Chubbuck to Pocatello for donated space where we could incubate companies and establish an outreach office,” Street said. “It doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to achieve that incubator space right now.”
After failing to get into a space that would allow for business incubation, Street said CEED decided to look for a place simply for an outreach office.
“We decided to look just for an outreach office where we could be available to the community, more easily accessible, where visitors don’t have to worry about finding us on campus and getting a parking ticket,” Street said. “So I’ve been asking around several businesses in downtown for window space on Main Street or Arthur Street, where CEED would be visible.”
Eventually Snyder offered CEED the space adjacent to Cottonwood Junction.
“Michael Snyder of Cottonwood Junction has this space that was a front display area for some businesses that are further back in his building,” Street said. “He offered that space to us, and we had a donor give us money for furniture to go in there. We took them up on the offer of donations and established the space.”
According to a business plan for CEED and the outreach office provided by Street, the office “will be a hub for business activity and serve as a one-stop shop for students, university inventors, business startups, and the business community to take advantage of all the programs the College of Business offers in support of economic development and entrepreneurship.”
Though Street would still like to have a business incubator center, he said the space donated by Cottonwood Junction is a good jumping-off point for CEED to outreach and help area businesses and nonprofits.
Right now, there are artists sharing the space with the outreach office, and Street said CEED is happy to be a resource for these artists as well.
“It’s kind of a mini business incubator,” he said. “That’s a good start for us, a kind of test facility.”
According to the business plan, CEED and the outreach office aim to:
- “Connect educational activities of the university with experiential opportunities for students and faculty toward developing new businesses.
- “Create a ‘culture of entrepreneurship’ while equipping students with the necessary tools to achieve business success.
- “Be an active part of the statewide student 'entrepreneurship ecosystem' involving university and high school students in their efforts to become entrepreneurs and successful business leaders.
- “Help local entrepreneurs create new job opportunities for area residents and become a source of tax revenue for Pocatello and Eastern Idaho.
- “Support of workforce development through the creation of start-up businesses providing higher wage jobs.”
Other organizations affiliated with CEED at the outreach office and on campus are the Small Business Development Center, ISU's Bengal Solutions, Eastern Idaho Development Corp. and TechHelp Idaho. Those organizations will not have regular hours at the office, but Street said they are welcome to meet with clients in the building, and he will direct prospective clients in their direction.
“These organizations have free services they can offer the business community. The business community is often not aware of what’s available to them,” Street said. “I will certainly be a voice to make a connection for small business people, business start-ups, innovators, entrepreneurs. Hopefully I will be able to say, ‘This sounds like something that one of these organizations can help you with.’”
Street also hopes the outreach office will help connect students with local businesses.
“I hope there’s going to be opportunities to connect students with ways to get experiential learning opportunities with small businesses,” he said. “Maybe ISU can offer them a Career Path Internship at one of these small businesses. Perhaps the College of Business can do a class project for some of these small businesses. And maybe some of these small businesses will hire the students, helping them get business experience while they’re in college.”
While the office will help students as well, Street said the office is primarily aimed to help local businesses.
“I don’t expect students are going to come to the outreach office,” he said. “It’s going to be for the business community, to help them.”