October momentum continues with RAIN, development
Florence continues with its “City in Motion” theme this October, with increased programs from Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network (RAIN), continued success with economic development partnerships and even the sale of two commercial lots of land in the Pacific View Business Park.
“The City of Florence is thrilled that our town has become a place of year-round entrepreneurial activity and enthusiasm,” said Florence City Manager Erin Reynolds.
“Our rural coastal region is now connected with resources more commonly found in metro areas that are essential to any startup business. As we begin our third year as partners with RAIN, we can’t wait to see how this startup community will continue to grow and flourish.”
At Monday night’s Florence City Council meeting, Venture Catalyst Caroline Cummings highlighted some of RAIN’s victories since it partnered with Florence in October 2015, including the recent “graduation” of six Florence-based startups from a course designed to activate and grow fledgling businesses.
“The six companies ranged from software and tech-based to fishing products, art, over-the counter healthcare and at home design products,” said David Youngentob, who led the Pre-Accelerator Course.
Youngentob was hired as RAIN’s coastal venture catalyst in November 2016. Since then, he has worked with Lane and Lincoln counties to promote entrepreneurs on the coast.
“You have some really cool innovators in this community,” Cummings said. “We catalyze these individuals to help them create jobs and bring wealth into Florence.”
RAIN seeks to connect innovators and entrepreneurs with training, services with training and, hopefully, investors and capital.
“We just landed $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce to put together a $10 million fund, so we can fund companies in our four-county region (Lane, Lincoln, Linn and Benton),” Cummings said. “We’re hoping to actually get some capital into their businesses so they can grow faster and hire more people.”
RAIN recently released a case study on the Florence Pre-Accelerator and RAIN’s impact on the area. It can be found at oregonrain.org.
“This case study we put together really highlights Florence as a small, rural community where you can stimulate your economy through focusing on your early-stage entrepreneurs. We’re working on pitching this nationally,” Cummings said. “It’s our goal to put Florence on the national map for entrepreneurship as a place where you can start and grow a thriving startup community.”
Youngentob said, “We catalyze people, capital and programs, … but the willingness is something that has to come from the community.”
He thanked the city council and staff for their support and work to promote a startup culture in Florence.
RAIN will host coffee meetups, open mentor hours and pub talks each month through December. People are encouraged to sign up for more information at www.meetup.com/Startup-Florence-Oregon-Coast.
Florence Mayor Joe Henry said, “I am very proud of our local people and entrepreneurs, as well as the folks from RAIN. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple of years. It’s really grown into something worthwhile for our community.”
Also at the meeting, Florence City Council approved the sale of two commercial land lots in the Pacific View Business Park. The lots went for $1.42 per square foot, or the same rate that the city gave to Klaus Witte and Top Hydraulics when he purchased land in the park in October 2016. These rates were discussed in a previous executive session.
“These are pieces of land in our inventory that have been identified as land to be sold for job creation and so the economy in our community can be increased,” Reynolds said.
Lot No. 23 sold for $66,185 to Robbie Wright and Siuslaw Broadband as the telecommunications business sets up a “fiber hut” to be the heart of a new fiber optics network coming to Florence later this year.
During public comment, Jo Beaudreau, owner of BeauxArts Fine Art Materials, said, “I’m excited for the expansion of fiber and information technology for our city. It is a foundation for our community to expand into the future. It will help all our industries here, and in the future, from medical to education to business to government. It affects all of our lives, even our Netflix habits.”
Reynolds said the land sale to Siuslaw Broadband could lead to a future vendor services agreement to bring fiber as a value-added service to the city’s remaining lots in the park.
“This is a major opportunity for our community,” Henry said.
The second lot, Lot No. 27, sold for $48,865 to Adam Eichler with Component Central Inc. This new-to-the-area service sells government surplus and is mostly an online business. It currently occupies a building in Glenada, but Eichler hopes construction can commence as soon as the 90-day closing period ends.
“It’s interesting the things we have and where they end up,” Eichler said of his products, which are shipped through the U.S. Postal Service and other carriers. “I’m excited to become part of the community.”
Henry said the sale of the two properties, coupled with the sale to Top Hydraulics last year, amounted to “more progress” in the park than has been seen in many years.
Reynolds also introduced South Coast Development Council’s (SCDC) new executive director, Sam Baugh, to the council. Florence is a member of the SCDC, “an economic development one-stop that has a goal of maintaining and improving the economic viability of the Southern Oregon Coast.”
“Economic development is multi-faceted. It takes many partners,” Reynolds said. “I’m happy to say you end up creating good, lifelong connections with people that will bear fruit down the line. It’s really exciting to be a part of it.”