After a couple of years of stagnation prompted by an embezzlement scandal, the city council is ready to bring new leadership to the Raleigh Incubator.
The city council on Aug. 7 is expected to begin accepting offers from companies interested in running the Raleigh Incubator, a building at 900 S. Wilmington Street that housed a business and technology center.
Under a tentative plan, interested parties would have until Oct.9 to submit proposals, and Raleigh officials would pick an operator by the end of November.
The space, home to four tenants, has been without leadership since the Raleigh Business and Technology Center vacated it in 2013 after allegations of fraud. The chairman of the center’s board of directors was later arrested.
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Raleigh council members held a special work session last week to talk about how they’d like the incubator to operate under new management. Council members mostly agreed with the recommendations of city staff, which has worked with community members since last July to develop a vision for the program.
Council members said they want the incubator primarily to serve entrepreneurs in the southeast Raleigh area. Priority should be given to minorities, women and those with plans to address community challenges, they said.
The incubator should also encourage its tenants to welcome interns and people with a criminal background, Mayor Nancy McFarlane said: “I would like to see an element of paying it forward to help the community.”
The city partially funded the Raleigh Business and Technology Center while it ran the building, but pulled funding and evicted the group after the scandal.
City leaders must decide how much to fund the new operation, and for how long. Council members agreed with a recommendation by community leaders that the incubator should someday be self-sustaining but disagreed on how long they should support it. Raleigh spends about $121,000 for overhead and collects $26,000 in rent.
The council agreed that the city may need to spend money upgrading the building to make it attractive and suitable for ambitious, tech-savvy small business leaders.
“We’re going to have to make sure … the guts of it can support the operation,” Councilman Wayne Maiorano said.
The building “does not scream innovation or anything like that right now,” said James Sauls, Raleigh’s economic development manager.
Community members recommend the city review the incubator’s budget monthly and audit its finances annually. A city auditor in 2013 found unexplained cashier’s checks and payments to tenants.