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GR's Lighthouse Communities launches on-location retail incubators in neighborhood business district

Deborah Johnson Wood

These aren't your ordinary business incubators: small spaces gathered in one building. These are full storefronts available in three Grand Rapids' neighborhood business districts for below-market lease rates. And they come with free accounting, legal and marketing support, business training and business plan development.

"What we're doing is creating a 'scattered site' incubator model," says Darel Ross, president of Lighthouse Communities, the nonprofit behind the idea. Lighthouse is the developer behind the proposed Lighthouse Development Center that will house six retail incubator spaces.

"We thought, what can we do, not just in an incubator property but throughout all our commercial properties, using the properties as a tool for economic development in the neighborhood business districts," Ross says. "We found as we filled our business incubator (Development Center) there was a demand for flexibility and affordable space. The need was larger than what we could deliver."

Urban Pizza, a take and bake pizzeria owned by Malika Pimpleton, is the first business in the new incubator model. Her retail space in the new Uptown Village building, 950 Wealthy, Grand Rapids is slated to open by April 1.

"Lighthouse pays for her first four months' rent so he can use that money to do her build-out," Ross says. That, along with 12 months of subsidized rent allows the owner 16 months to build clientele, and to get her accounting, legal and marketing needs in order.

Lighthouse has commercial properties in three neighborhood business districts – Madison Square, Wealthy Street and Grandville Avenue – and plans to roll out the new incubator program in all three areas.

"If we can take away some of the expenses and surround you with support, we know you have a legal entity that's best for your business, a solid business plan, and you're working with an accountant all from day one," Ross says. "That makes the neighborhood business districts stronger and lets the business owner concentrate on the business, instead of worrying about overhead and rent."

Source: Darel Ross, Lighthouse Communities

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Have a development news tip for Rapid Growth? Contact us at info@rapidgrowthmedia.cominfo@rapidgrowthmedia.com.
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