Business teams report Overtown incubator nearer reality
By Marilyn Bowden
The Black Business Association is teaming up with the Business Assistance Corp. to put a business incubator in an Overtown office and warehouse complex, association Executive Director John E. Dixon Jr. said.
The two groups formed a partnership to redevelop a 4,107-square-foot building at 6600 NW 27th Ave., formerly a gym, Mr. Dixon said, as a full-service incubator for new and existing businesses.
"Ideally we would like to attract businesses already in business," he said. "The concept is for them to occupy space, grow and move on."
He said the $200,000 project would be the first new office development in Miami's African-American community in a decade.
Renovations have moved rapidly, he said, with the dry wall up and air-conditioning ducts in. A first quarter 2001 opening is planned.
The association is housed in an 8,426-square-foot, seven-story office building adjoining the new incubator. Mr. Dixon said the 8-acre site is leased from the county for $1 a year. That arrangement, he said, will allow the association to lease space at below market rates.
The complex is also the home of the 10-year-old Business Assistance Corp., which distributes funds from the county's Community Redevelopment Agency.
Comptroller Jesse Houston said the center completed $2 million in loan activity in fiscal 1999.
"This is part of a plan for self-sufficiency," said architect Ron Frazier, chair of the Business Assistance Corp. "This complex already houses about 40 Black businesses that generate $40 million a year. The question is how to maximize on this.
"We were looking for a joint venture opportunity. We have some synergy going with the Black Business Association. They need money. We have loans and office space.
"The client base is there and startups in the incubator would get a leg-up from the association."
The incubator will have an open floor plan with 20 cubicles available for short-term lease, Mr. Dixon said. Tenants share amenities such as a receptionist, conference room, kitchen and lavatories.
"The walls between cubicles won't be full floor-to-ceiling height," he said. "But confidentiality would be protected."
Security at the 24-hour facility will be a fundamental concern, he said.
Mr. Frazier said the association had a $75,000 grant from Enterprise Florida for the project that elapsed before it got under way.
A $150,000 grant from the county will fund renovations, he said.
"We are implementing what everyone would like to see happen," Mr. Frazier said. "We've seen a lot come and go, but no major development in the inner city. All the activity is along the corridor between the port and the airport.
"It's time for Black folks to do things for themselves and quit waiting on everybody else.
"This is a fully occupied building right smack dab in the middle of the Enterprise Zone. We have a market, so let's embellish it with support services."
Mr. Dixon said businesses need to be educated about enterprise and empowerment zone benefits.
"Many of them have no idea how they can benefit within the area," he said.
Mr. Frazier said there's room for more construction at the Overtown complex as well as in surrounding areas.
Details: Black Business Association, (305) 573-6525; Business Assistance Corp., (305) 693-3550.