HAMMOND | Nurturing the next generation of small businesses often takes a partnership and a safe haven where fledgling companies can develop both wings and roots.
The Hammond INnovation Center at 5209 Hohman Ave. is a 9,000-square-foot business incubator formed in 2008 with a technical grant from the state of Indiana.
A new chapter in the playbook will be written later this year as the Center, managed by the Hammond Development Corp., opens a second facility at the former Harris Bank Building at 5243 Hohman Ave., which has 30,000 square feet and five stories.
“This building was the computer center for Harris Bank. We will dedicate a floor at a time,” said Mark McLaughlin, executive director of the Hammond Development Corp.
Each of the four floors above the lobby area offers 7,000 square feet of space that can be renovated for the needs of multiple businesses. The new building is owned by the Hammond Redevelopment Commission, a city of Hammond department.
“The limiting factor in the current Hammond INnovation Center is that our largest room is 330 square feet,” McLaughlin said. “And we’re full. We have 11 full-time tenants and associate tenants. There are a dozen businesses in association with the Hammond INnovation Center.”
Some business tenants currently share space and the overflow has already been taken to the Indiana Building, home to the Hammond Development Corp. That facility has three full-time incubator tenants and five associate businesses.
The Harris Building will offer larger spaces for businesses that want to take root in downtown Hammond. Some companies might already be established and “on the verge of growing” and in need of more space and services, McLaughlin said.
That’s the case for several businesses that have already gone through a cycle at the current Hammond INnovation Center and are ready to expand.
Others could be larger businesses seeking to set up a local office in Northwest Indiana.
“With all the steel mills and refinery outsourcing going on in Northwest Indiana, this building could be the perfect site for a regional office,” he said.
The Harris Building will offer the same services as the smaller center -- business and marketing counseling; copying; Internet service; teleconferencing; shipping and receiving packages; educational seminars and workshops; access to Purdue University Calumet faculty, staff and student interns; and collaboration opportunities with PUC’s experiential learning program.
Currently a construction company is completing drawings of the new facilities, and the HDC has already presented plans to a potential tenant, McLaughlin said. Bids for construction will be taken in the near future.
The building’s interior will be renovated and offer open space with modular walls.
“This is a win-win for the city and businesses,” McLaughlin said.
It’s also part of the renaissance of downtown Hammond, said Phil Taillon, executive director for Hammond Planning and Development.
“We all know Hammond hasn’t been the same as it was. We need new businesses to take chances. That’s what an incubator does. It offers very cheap space for business to get a start,” Tallion said.
A number of buildings in downtown Hammond have been renovated and are ready for businesses and offices to occupy them, he said.
“Downtown Hammond is like the heart of the city, and you can't function without your heart,” Tallion said. “So this is super-important that we keep focusing on what is going on downtown.”