Barbara Zwetzig, director of the Center for Business, Entrepreneurship and Tourism at Black Hills State University, who is spearheading plans for a business incubator on campus, recently attended the National Business Incubation Association’s 25th International Conference on Business Incubation in San Jose, Calif.

The conference offered numerous educational sessions and networking venues to help business incubation and economic development professionals from around the world learn more about developing sustainable incubation programs and nurturing entrepreneurial talent. The conference focused on both basic business incubation strategies and new industry trends.

Business incubation programs, such as the planned Northern Black Hills Business Incubator on the edge of the BHSU campus in Spearfish and the existing Black Hills Business Development Center in Rapid City, catalyze the process of starting and growing companies by providing entrepreneurs with the expertise, networks and tools they need to make their ventures successful, according to Zwetzig.

NBIA estimates that in 2005 alone, North American incubators assisted more than 27,000 start-up companies that provided full-time employment for more than 100,000 workers and generated annual revenue of more than $17 billion. In the first five years of operation, the South Dakota Technology Business Center graduated nine companies and its graduate and client companies created over 329 quality jobs in the Sioux Falls area.

The planned Northern Black Hills Business Incubator will be a “mixed use” incubator which serves a variety of technology and non-technology business start-ups. The incubator could also serve as the hub and consulting resource for other small business incubators in the Black Hills or affiliate clients throughout the region that are not resident clients within the actual incubator building.

It is the goal of the Northern Black Hills Business Incubator to serve the broader Black Hills region as opportunities present by extending its incubator services and resources to the rural communities. Locating the incubator on the campus of BHSU facilitates collaboration with the faculty and student intern resources of the University. Reaching out to the rural communities of the Black Hills to extend those resources through affiliate memberships or satellite incubator programs is one strategy planned to help diversify the economy and create better paying job opportunities for the region. BHSU is already the home base for the South Dakota Center for Enterprise Opportunity, the SBA Women’s Business Center for the state, which provides an array of public business training opportunities for entrepreneurs.

The South Dakota Board of Regents recently approved the formation of a building committee to move forward with the planning of the business incubator on the BHSU campus; fundraising from community and federal sources for the project is in the beginning stages.

The National Business Incubation Association is the world’s leading organization advancing business incubation and entrepreneurship. It provides thousands of professionals with information, education, advocacy and networking resources to bring excellence to the process of assisting early-stage companies.