Loveland’s RMCIT could house tech accelerator

LOVELAND — The city of Loveland is considering funding a technology accelerator to grow companies at the former Agilent Technologies campus.

Loveland’s Economic Development Department will ask City Council on Tuesday for $750,000 in funding over five years for the accelerator. It will be located in the Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation and Technology.

The so-called Stone Soup Accelerator would try to spur growth of tech companies that would locate at the campus. It’s not intended as an incubator for startups, according to the city. Organized as a nonprofit, the accelerator would lease space from Cumberland & Western Resources, which owns the building.

Money from the city will fund the salary of an accelerator director and office operating expenses. The full-time director would work for the city of Loveland’s Economic Development Department, and a nine-member volunteer board of directors would govern the organization.

The Loveland Development Fund, a nonprofit organized by local business leaders, including executives of companies such as tech company Vergent Products and engineering firm KL&A Inc., will run the accelerator.

The fund is similar to one started in 1958 that helped bring several businesses to Loveland, including HP and Woodward Inc. It dissolved in 2005.

In 2011, Kentucky-based Cumberland & Western Resources bought the former Agilent campus from the city for $5 million in cash. The development company has since sought tenants, though no companies have settled there.

Here’s the press release from the effort’s organizers:

LOVELAND, COLO. – March 12, 2013 – There once was village named Loveland with businesspeople who believed the moral of the Stone Soup folktale could come true:  When people pitch in and contribute what they can, the entire community benefits.

While the Stone Soup folktaIe focused on helping the hungry – each villager pitched in one ingredient to make a rich soup that nourished all — the Loveland story is about businesspeople collaborating to open the Stone Soup Business Accelerator this summer to help growing businesses succeed. 

Stone Soup will attract to Loveland small, growth-potential companies from around the country that already have products, services or technologies ready to sell, and help them mature into flourishing firms that bring new jobs to the region.

“Stone Soup is not a business incubator,” said Doug Rutledge, CEO of Loveland-based KL&A Structural Engineers and Builders, and chairman of the Loveland Development Fund, which is leading the Accelerator effort.

“Our purpose isn’t to help new start-ups get their feet on the ground. Stone Soup will help established, adolescent companies accelerate their growth into adult, stable firms that bring lasting jobs to the area.”

Stone Soup organizers are asking City Council to provide $75,000 to fund the Executive Director’s salary and benefits from July-December this year. The City’s contribution will be combined with business and community donations, along with grants, to fund the estimated $500,000 needed in 2013 to launch and operate the Accelerator.

Organizers also are asking the City to fund the executive director’s salary and benefits through 2017 at a total cost of $675,000, based on an annual cost of $150,000.  An executive director is scheduled to be hired this summer.

Already, more than20 local businesspeople representing economic development, construction, insurance, banking, manufacturing, business consulting and several other industries are working together to raise funds, finalize business planning and launch the program. “Like the Stone Soup folktale, it’s community collaboration at its finest,” Rutledge said. 

“The Stone Soup effort mirrors what happened in 1958 when local progressive businesspeople were determined to lure an exciting new company named Hewlett-Packard to the area,” said Betsey Hale, economic development director for the City of Loveland and a member of the Stone Soup organizing committee. “So they formed the Loveland Development Fund, which focused on business development in our area for 50 years. Their efforts paid off when HP opened the Loveland facility, which was the first outside of Palo Alto, California. We’re still seeing the ramifications of that pioneering group’s relentless efforts today. Those forward-thinking businesspeople created the foundation for the widespread high-technology industry in our region. The same grassroots effort from 50 years ago is happening again today through Stone Soup.”

Stone Soup details

The Accelerator initially will occupy up to 40,000-square-feet of the Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation and Technology campus in west Loveland, a space formerly owned by Agilent Technologies. Stone Soup organizers plan for first clients to move in this July.

“Ideal Stone Soup clients will have a proven product, technology or service; employ a small staff of key individuals with aspirations to employ many more; have a solid business plan; secured initial funding; and are committed to providing jobs to Northern Colorado,” said Terry Precht, president and CEO of Loveland-based Vergent Products and a coordinator of the Stone Soup program.

Accepted clients will move into space ready for immediate occupancy that features conference rooms and other amenities, team with Stone Soup’s executive director on networking and funding opportunities, have access to Stone Soup’s advisory board of longtime and highly successful businesspeople, associate with a program highly visible to venture capitalists and work alongside companies at a similar growth stage. 

The Loveland Development Fund will operate the Accelerator, while a full-time executive director will manage the program. An advisory board will monitor the Accelerator’s operations, advise the executive director and report to the Loveland Development Fund.

Funding and Collaboration

Long-term funding for Stone Soup will include community cash and in-kind donations through the Loveland Development Fund; rental income from Stone Soup client companies; in-kind funding from Cumberland & Western Resources, developer of the Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation and Technology; and the City of Loveland. Total funding needed over the next five years is estimated to be $3.2 million.

Stone Soup executives expect to work closely with other organizations striving to advance Northern Colorado’s economic welfare, including: Northern Colorado Economic Development, Loveland Center for Business Development, Cumberland & Western, City of Loveland, Loveland Chamber of Commerce, Colorado State University, Rocky Mountain Innosphere and more.

How to Apply

Companies interested in becoming a Stone Soup client can contact Stone Soup Coordinators Doug Rutledge at 970-481-7580 or Terry Precht at 970-667-8570.
Doug Rutledge, Stone Soup Coordinator – 970-481-7580
Terry Precht, Stone Soup Coordinator – 970-667-8570

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