On Wednesday, during a talk at Shawnee State University, well-known economist from The Ohio State University, Ned Hill, reiterated several times no large corporation, no outside guardian angel of some sort ever is going to swoop in and become Portsmouth’s savior.
“Communities have to have the courage to invest in themselves,” Hill said.
That belief would seem to lead directly into his contention entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs are an absolute necessity in the come-back of any city.
With precisely that train of thought in mind, SSU on Friday is launching the new Kricker Innovation Hub on Chillicothe Street, in the former location of the Elite Beauty School or, depending perhaps on how long you have lived in Portsmouth, the former Lewis furniture store.
Going way back to the late 1800s, the building was home to the Sanford, Varner and Co., clothing factory. That company has been described as an example of early entrepreneurship and innovation in Portsmouth and SSU is making up to a $4.5 million bet the building can again accommodate and foster innovative, new businesses in the city.
“This will be a resource for the entire community,” said Angela Duduit, SSU director of workforce development and entrepreneurship. She and Eric Braun, SSU vice president of advancement and external affairs, talked about the hub offering numerous services to entrepreneurs and budding businesses in and around Portsmouth.
“We are hoping that people who are perhaps operating small businesses out of their homes, they will have the opportunity to use and become part of what we call shared services,” Duduit said.
Need a receptionist for your up-and-coming company but can’t quite afford to hire someone yourself? The hub can provide you such a person. They can offer you space for meeting with clients or business partners. May be you just need a mailbox or access to a copier.
Free workshops will cover such topics as legal questions related to operating businesses, acquisition of capital and numerous similar topics. Social media and marketing are a combined topic in which Duduit said local business people have expressed an interest.
For his part, Braun is convinced of the need for such services, stating “there is no doubt” a burgeoning community of entrepreneurs operating in Portsmouth. Obviously, SSU, with the Innovation Hub, hopes to nurture and grow that community.
“It really started as an extension of the demand the campus had for students who were developing skills that they could deploy here in the area… to frankly, be employed and create employment,” Braun said, adding as officials began to envision a response to the needs of students, they came to realize there was a need and demand for similar services outside of the university community. He once again touched on what he said is the encouraging growth of entrepreneurship locally and commented on how that growing community has been more than willing to help the Innovation Hub with mentoring and so on.
“For any community to thrive, you need to have that active entrepreneurship culture where people are creating small businesses,” Braun said, essentially echoing Hill’s comments.
“Really, the only way any region like this is going to grow is through entrepreneurship,” Braun continued.
All in all, the hub building consists of 17,000 square feet of usable space on several floors, including a usable roof, Duduit said. Eventually, officials hope to open a coffee shop inside the hub offering SSU students the chance to learn by doing and running the coffee shop themselves. According to Duduit, older students would help guide younger students.
Renovations to the building are ongoing but the hub formally opens for business 10 a.m. Friday with an open house and a ribbon-cutting at 11 a.m. Braun quipped officials are not calling Friday’s event a “grand opening” because with renovations incomplete, he said the hub is not quite grand just yet. Still, both he and Duduit seem convinced and determined that the hub will be an asset to the Portsmouth community and possibly a guidepost to its future.
When fully built out, Braun put the final potential investment in the hub at the $4.5 million figure mentioned earlier. That money is coming from grants and private donations, including an apparently generous offering from SSU supporter and longtime local businessman Jim Kricker.
Even prior to the open house, the new hub will host its first entrepreneurial speaker 6 p.m. Thursday when Sam and Joyce Peters of Patter Fam Sauces and at least two other local companies speak in a free talk at the hub.
For information on programs and workshops to be offered by the Kricker Innovation Hub go to www.ssuinnovation.com.