Company Culture

Why the Middletown Chamber is launching a startup incubator

A rapidly growing town between Dover and Wilmington is getting in on the coworking and incubator craze. "It’s in our best interest to fill this need."

Middletown Chamber of Commerce members visit Walnut Street Labs in West Chester, Pa.

(Photo courtesy of Benjamin Bock)

The technology and startup culture is growing in Wilmington. But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening elsewhere.
With more than 12,000 new residents to Middletown in the last decade, Roxane Ferguson said its time to connect the burgeoning population of town — which sits at the southern end of New Castle County, about halfway between Wilmington and Dover — with more ideas, funding and resources.
Ferguson, executive director of the Middletown Area Chamber of Commerce, said the organization’s goal is to create a collaborative workspace and incubator in town by early next year.

"We’re really excited. The need is here. Below the canal, there is nothing down here in Kent or Sussex County. It’s in our best interest to fill this need."
Roxane Ferguson, Middletown Area Chamber of Commerce

“We just had an interest meeting with local politicians, entrepreneurs, about 60 people. We believe we can move forward in the first quarter of 2015,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said she feels the concept is a win-win for the both the Chamber and the community.
Since the Chamber is registered as a 501(c)(3), the organization has more access to funding and resources, Ferguson said. For one, many chamber members are business leaders, media professionals, administrators and Rotary members — a boon to the group as a whole, since experienced members can mentor others in the group.
Ferguson said the incubator portion of the space could be helpful to startups who are ready to start, but are not ready to take on a large debt.
“A lot of smaller businesses are looking to come to the area. We have a lot of business owners reaching out to us and wanting information on the area,” Ferguson said. “The incubator provides better resources. It’s better than jumping into a brick-and-mortar building. They just need 200 square feet of space and they don’t want to jump into that [larger] debt right away.”
The Chamber is already in talks with a realtor about a 7,000 square foot space in Middletown. Ferguson said the group wants it to be eclectic and open, with some offices, a conference room and matching decor and design.
Earlier this fall, the MACC team visited three locations to learn what it takes to set up a collaborative space. The group visited New Castle County’s Emerging Enterprise Center, Wilmington’s The Loft, and Walnut Street Labs in West Chester, Pa.
WSL’s Benjamin Bock said he was happy to show them around and provide an example of how a coworking and incubating space can be beneficial to the community.
“It’s a way for us to share with the community in Delaware and Philadelphia — that more places like us are interested in having a launch pad in their area,” Bock said. “They’re interested in reinventing the job scene, too.”

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