Barbara Zwetzig
Barbara Zwetzig, director of the Center for Business, Entrepreneurship & Tourism (CBET) at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, attended the National Business Incubation Association 26th International Conference on Business Incubation event last month in Atlanta, Ga. to learn strategies for developing and managing successful entrepreneur support programs.

Nearly 600 incubation and economic development professionals from around the world gathered to learn, share ideas, and network with colleagues to assist entrepreneurs in new and better ways. The conference, titled “Beyond Best Practices,” featured sessions on increasing incubator sustainability, implementing best practices in incubation, coaching clients, collecting impact data, and helping entrepreneurs find investors.

As local, state, and national government agencies examine ways to create jobs and turn around the struggling economy, business incubation programs are featuring prominently in the debate. “For 50 years, incubators like Rapid City’s Black Hills Business Development Center have been helping entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable businesses, promoting innovation and creating jobs by providing emerging companies with business support services and resources tailored to young firms to increase their chances of success,” said Zwetzig.

She added that around the world, entrepreneurs are playing an increasingly important role in transforming economies. Rather than relying solely on efforts to attract existing businesses from other locations, many communities are recognizing the need to help local residents build new businesses from the ground up through business incubators. 

By focusing on developing a new generation of entrepreneurs – most of whom have ties to the local area – communities are helping to build companies that will create jobs and spark economic growth in the region for years to come. Zwetzig notes that because these programs provide targeted business assistance to young firms at their earliest stages of development – when they’re most vulnerable – business incubators help support new ventures that have a greater-than-average chance of success.

“Starting a new business isn’t an easy task. Most business owners know every detail of their product or service, but lack the skills needed to turn their ideas into successful firms,” said Zwetzig. Business incubation programs are uniquely positioned to help entrepreneurs access the resources through the incubator, business community, local colleges and universities, and other business assistance programs to help them develop the skills they need to grow successful firms.

According to Zwetzig, the CBET at BHSU, will launch a business incubator proof of concept phase this summer in support of rural community business startups. The program will be named Black Hills Virtual Incubation Program (BH VIP), and will serve the Black Hills region by providing assistance to startup businesses in their hometown location.  The program will provide access to university resources, faculty and student interns, business professionals, and a variety of programs and networking events. Zwetzig believes this phase will serve to prove there is sufficient entrepreneurial activity in the Black Hills rural communities to justify future investments in a second business incubator hub or facility for western South Dakota. For more information, contact Barbara Zwetzig, 605-642-6276 or visit www.BHSU.edu/CBET.