Chapel Hill to launch entrepreneurial program

Jan. 07, 2013 @ 07:38 PM

Entrepreneurs and startup ventures can begin applying for admission to LAUNCH Chapel Hill, a program that will provide entrepreneurial space to students and others interested in starting, growing and keeping new businesses in Chapel Hill.

The program, a collaborative effort involving the town, UNC, Orange County and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, will offer subsidized rent and services at a “venture lab” at 321 W. Rosemary Street.

Officials hope the downtown business incubator, expected to open in the spring, will rival the American Underground in Durham and other successful business incubators in the area and give young startups incentive to remain in Chapel Hill once their businesses begin to succeed.

“It helps us meet one of our goals of how do we do a better job of stimulating business activity with businesses that will stay here,” said Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil.

In addition to subsidized rent, those who set up shop in the venture lab will get the benefit of experienced mentors from UNC’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, the Kenan-Flagler Business School and other departments at UNC.

While the “venture lab” will naturally attract UNC students and Chapel Hill residents, it will be open to anyone interested in starting a business and keeping it in Chapel Hill.

“We wouldn’t mind if they came from somewhere else,” Stancil said.

The “venture lab” will be in the  3,500-square-foot property that was occupied by 3 Birds Marketing until it outgrew the space and relocated to 505 W. Franklin Street.

The Downtown Partnership will serve as the property manager. And three years of funding, $245,000, primarily for rent, will come from Chapel Hill’s Downtown Tax District ($105,000) and the portion of the county’s half-cent sales tax earmarked for economic development ($140,000).

3 Birds will kick in $30,000 in cash and another $30,000 in in-kind services. Rental payments from tenants will help to support the program.

Interested entrepreneurs can obtain an application, skim the LAUNCH Chapel Hill Fact Sheet, visit the venture lab, and learn more about the available resources at http://www.launchchapelhill.com/ or by contacting Bobby Funk at the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership at bobby@downtownchapelhill.com.