Terms like “co-working,” “soft landing” and others in the realm of business incubation may not be familiar. Even when Spark Growth’s Stan Schultes and Sara Hand began the process of setting up Bradenton’s only business incubator more than a year ago, it was a foreign concept to many.
“The idea was so new to us in the community, and now it’s embraced,” says Bradenton Downtown Development Authority Chairman Vernon DeSear. “It’s really quite exciting.”
Schultes and Hand began looking for space to start the incubator about 18 months ago, and those in the economic development circles saw the value immediately. So much so, Bradenton offered the pair the historic firehouse at 912 Seventh Ave. E.
The building had seen better days as the former town hall in old downtown Bradenton into the 1940s, and then served as a firehouse and police station for decades. Today, renovations have transformed the old firehouse into a potential economic development gold mine for the area while retaining its historic charm.
“Most people are looking for something shiny and new, but we saw a chance to offer something charming, unique and really cool,” said Schultes, Spark Growth’s director of operations.
Uniqueness is the goal for the innovation center. It offers a variety of opportunities for the existing and hopeful entrepreneurs.