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New management could restore incubation at Superior Business Center

Superior and Douglas County are considering a management change for the Superior Business Center.

After a five-year hiatus, the Development Association could soon be responsible for managing the business incubator in Superior's North End. If approved by the Superior City Council and Douglas County Board, the move could include leasing the former Arrowhead Printing building and restoring services to help startup businesses launch successfully.

"We had some discussion internally about selling the building and I think that has kind of gone away," said Jason Serck, economic development, port and planning director for Superior.

In addition to anchor tenants, which subsidize startups, Development Association Director Jim Caesar — contracted by the city and county to run the building — has a number of small businesses including the Strength Factory and A2D2, which makes sensors used in grain elevators. The commercial kitchen in the building, the only one in the Twin Ports available for food manufacturers, currently has 10 tenants, with three more in the works, he said.

The Development Association had previously managed the facility between 2001 and 2014, when the association's board asked the city and county to resume management of the building for financial reasons, Serck said. At the time, the facility was losing money, which has since turned around under Caesar's management of the building.

Caesar was managing the Superior Business Center under contract before he was appointed to serve as director for the Development Association.

"We've essentially been managing the building," Serck said of the city and county.

Those responsibilities would shift to the Development Association if the city and county approve an agreement.

The goal behind the management change is to implement a strategic plan that would return the facility to its incubation mission.

"This building has kind of turned away from incubation, and we've got some long-term tenants in there," Serck said. "Jim wants to change that. The vision is to change that, and to essentially concentrate on a three- or four-year plan when each business comes in there and then graduate them, as well as provide incubation services."

According to the proposal, the Development Association would be in a better position to transition graduating businesses to other rental properties in the city

Serck said the reason for the change is IHS Doors, one of the anchor tenants in the building, is planning an expansion, but constraints on the building site would force that expansion to take place within the building, which would displace some current tenants. Those tenants would be moved to the Arrowhead Printing building, which would be leased by the Development Association, to open additional incubation space.

The advantage of leasing the Arrowhead Printing building is that it keeps it on the tax rolls, Caesar said.

Serck said the city's Finance and the county's Land and Development committees will review the proposal before it goes to the City Council and County Board for consideration.

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