Jobs coming: Business Incubator makes debut

City and state leaders From left, Federal Way city councilman Mike Park, deputy mayor Dini Duclos, mayor Linda Kochmar, Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Pierson, SSRBI executive director Cosette Gibson-Pfaff and Sen. Tracey Eide signify the SSRBI’s grand opening.  - Katie Adams/The Mirror
City and state leaders From left, Federal Way city councilman Mike Park, deputy mayor Dini Duclos, mayor Linda Kochmar, Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Pierson, SSRBI executive director Cosette Gibson-Pfaff and Sen. Tracey Eide signify the SSRBI’s grand opening.
— image credit: Katie Adams/The Mirror

A major step toward revitalizing Federal Way’s business sector was celebrated June 21 when the Chamber of Commerce’s business incubator debuted.

“When you talk about bringing the economy back, this is where it starts,” Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Pierson said.

The South Sound Regional Business Incubator (SSRBI) is designed to assist start-ups and companies looking to expand. The incubator operates out of a building located at 402 S. 333rd St. It is overseen by the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with several other local partners, including school districts, the Multi-Service Center and the small business development center at Highline Community College.

The incubator offers business owners resources and services to launch their venture and keep it flourishing. The incubator can serve up to 37 businesses out of the SSRBI center. Financial management tools, business planning, Internet access, marketing advice, access to capital, business training programs, mentoring and more are available to participants. Business classes are taught on site Tuesdays and evenings.

“This is a very holistic approach to helping small business,” SSRBI resident consultant Ralph Ibarra said.

Incubator participants:

Currently, about six business owners are on schedule to participate in the SSRBI. They may be involved for up to two years while they hone their business skills. Some participants are starting up new companies, such as ecoinsulate Northwest, and others have been around a while but are interested in taking a new approach to their work, such as DesignWorks.

Brett Johnson, ecoinsulate Northwest owner, and partner Kris Barnes, are participants in the SSRBI. They are starting a company that offers residential insulation made from corn. Johnson and Barnes both have experience in the construction industry but need a little help mapping out a business plan and figuring out finances for their new start-up. Johnson’s goal is to grow the business to a point that he and Barnes can afford to hire employees and operate multiple insulation teams.

“Our goal here is to put people to work,” he said.

Carla Conrad, owner of DesignWorks, is also participating in the business incubator. She’s owned her web design and social media operation for more than a decade, but has never launched it as a professional outfit. Rather, she’s done work from home when it’s available. She hopes to be mentored on business principals and to grow her company. Participants in the incubator must prove they’re ready to operate on their own by graduating from the program.

The SSRBI is expected to help create 200 jobs in the South King County/ North Pierce County region per year, Pierson said. The end result: more businesses thriving in Federal Way, more jobs produced by those businesses and more public money staying in the community.

“Our city is built on small business and we want our businesses to thrive,” mayor Linda Kochmar said. “We’re trying to move our businesses forward.”


The incubator is scheduled to operate a minimum of 10 years on a $700,000 budget. Approximately $500,000 has been raised, Pierson said. Start up costs were $325,000. The Federal Way city council approved contributing $100,000, to come out of the 2005-established Downtown Development fund. It has promised the same amount to be donated next year. The state contributed $125,000 toward the facility. Another $100,000 came from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Pierson plans for the model to be self-sufficient after three years.

By the Numbers

• 84 percent of business incubator graduates continue business operations in the community

• 87 percent of graduates are successful and continue in their operation after graduation

• 54 percent of business incubators are designed as mixed-use

• In 2005, business incubators in North America helped launch 27,000 start-up companies

• In 2005, business incubators in North America provided full-time employment to more than 100,000 workers

• In 2005, business incubators in

North America generated annual revenues exceeding $17 billion.

• For every $10,000 invested in a business incubator, approximately 50 jobs are created.

• About 31 percent of North American business incubators are sponsored by economic developement organizations

* All statistical information is collected from the National Business Incubation Association’s Web site, and the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration’s “Construction Grants Program Impact Assessment Report.”

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