Hills council wants more info on Hawk biz incubator

Farmington Hills city council members said Monday they want more information about turning the third floor of The Hawk community center into a business incubator.

The city bought the former Harrison High School on 12 Mile Road from Farmington Public Schools (FPS) in 2018. Initially, the district kept control of the building’s third floor for administrative offices, but eventually turned that over to the city as well.

Jon Aldred for Farmington Hills City Council

Economic Development Corporation (EDC) chair Lew Cantor said during a Monday study session that the EDC hired a consulting firm to explore whether an incubator makes sense for the space.

“In essence, we wanted to find out if there was good assurance of a reasonable ROI (return on investment) of our taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Wisconsin-based Place Dynamics completed a 42-page report that represents the project’s first phase. Consultant Michael Stumpf said the company found that of the 650,000 businesses launched in metro Detroit over the past 20 years, most started within a 20-minute drive of The Hawk.

“Just based on that alone, we can say there’s a very strong market for entrepreneurship in the area,” he said, adding the company also interviewed other service providers and the start-up community. “Even at this broad level, we’re feeling good about the market opportunity.”

The report recommended pursuing co-working and general manufacturing clients. Bio-tech and food industry uses could work as well, Stumpf said, but have requirements for building design and expensive equipment. 

Cantor said the space would need a director to identify and recruit businesses. He said the incubator’s goal would be to support companies until they can move into the community.

That may include access to shared equipment, workshops, and professionals to help with legal, hiring, and other issues.

“The key is flexibility,” he said. “We want to see where the market takes us.”

Stumpf said the city’s “number one client” would be someone who “has a vision to grow their business”, rather than a part-time venture.

The next phase of the project will include more details about design and how the incubator would operate. Council members expect to learn more during a study session in June. 

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