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MVCC launching student business incubator in Utica

By ANNA MEILER

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Utica has been grappling with the problem of retaining college students after they graduate.

"Brain drain is when we educate them, they go somewhere else, they don't feel that they have the economic opportunity in this area so they say thank you I'm going to a big city to put that to work," said John Liddy, the entrepreneur in residence at the Mohawk Valley Community College.

Semra Sarajlia is a student at MVCC and says she's noticed that trend and fears she faces the same future.

"I don't want to go away, but I feel like because there's not that much opportunity here it's kind of like people have to go," she said.

So now Mohawk Valley Community College is trying to create more opportunities at home by starting a student business incubator.

"It's for students who have great ideas and they need to develop it into a commercial application and that's what we're going to do here," said Frank DuRoss, the Executive Director of Institutional Advancement at Mohawk Valley Community College.

According to the National Business Incubation Association, there are about 1,250 incubators in the United States. Soon, you'll see one at 106 Genesee Street in Utica.

It will be a work space where teams of students can launch business ideas and get hands on mentoring. The program lasts 12 weeks and teams work with five different mentors through the process of creating a business. First, they'll form the entity of the business, then the product or service creation and third, financing.

"Then we allow them to incubate past that and then the goal is they outgrow this place and we have to kick them out and into rent paying opportunity in downtown Utica," said Liddy.

Their goal is to have between four to 10 student teams develop business ideas over the next year. The incubator center will provide the conference room space, internet and mentoring. They will then have the teams pitch their business plans to venture capitalists in hopes of launching the plan into a reality.

The incubator will do more than benefit the students. It will also boost the local economy in Utica. Local businesses have already jumped on board, making investments and providing financial support to make the program sustainable.

"These student companies will start creating jobs and then when they start creating jobs they're going to want to live near the area so you're going to see economic development," said Liddy.

Liddy started an incubator called the Syracuse Student Sandbox and has launched over 100 companies.

"I think our largest company now has 18 employees making seven figures in revenue," he said.

Now he's ready to roll up his sleeves in Utica, and students are already excited.

"I feel like it's a good opportunity to stay here and stay with my family. It's really exciting," said Sarajlia.

The incubator is set to open in the fall and is completely free. If you want to get involved, reach out to Frank DuRoss at MVCC: 315-792-5526.

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