From Illinois Business Journal news services
BELLEVILLE — The Metro East Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is one of the first organizations to sponsor a space in Peer 151, Southwestern Illinois’ first startup incubator.
Peer 151, which celebrated its grand opening Oct. 16, is a smaller-scale, “velociraptor” version of St. Louis’ existing T-REX innovation community on Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis, according to Executive Director Chris Oswald.
The 6,000-square-foot collaborative work space – located on the second floor of the newly restored Turner Hall building at 15 N. First St. in downtown Belleville – is recruiting additional businesses and organizations to subsidize rent for entrepreneurs and recent startups.
“We’re grateful to the Metro East SBDC and Director Patrick McKeehan for their support of our region’s first collaborative work space,” Oswald said. “The SBDC has referred a startup business that we hope will move into their sponsored suite in January. We could see four or five businesses come out of Peer 151 every year.”
Metro East SBDC director Patrick McKeehan said he is excited about the launch and the options it provides entrepreneurs. Metro East SBDC signed on as one of the first organizations to champion an office within the work space.
“This new innovative space creates another valuable asset as we continue our work on regenerating an entrepreneurial culture in Southwestern Illinois,” said McKeehan. “We look forward to working closely with Peer 151 and its clients.”
The small business incubator’s goal is to secure 30 small business and independent worker memberships; Oswald says Peer 151 is well on its way to achieving that objective.
For $125 per month, Peer 151 tenants receive space plus utilities, wi-fi, access to a shared conference room, coffee bar, break room with two local beers on tap, CEO guest speakers and more.
“We’ve definitely used T-REX and the Cortex Innovation Community as models for what we’ve created,” said Oswald, adding that building owner Kurt Artinger purchased the two-story, 48,000-square-foot, 90-year-old building from the city of Belleville two years ago. Artinger’s company, Replacement Services LLC, occupies the ground floor.
“We made the rounds in the St. Louis entrepreneurial ecosystem to gain input from incubator experts there,” Artinger said. “The true measure Peer 151’s success, beyond the collaborative work space, will be its capacity to nurture and grow entrepreneurial activity. This is one of our first major endeavors, and we’re proud of it.”
For more information on Peer 151, see www.peer151.com or contact Oswald at [email protected]