Inside the INCubator, Literally

By Kristyna Bronner

What makes a place great for entrepreneurs and businesses? Quality of life, affordable costs and availability of resources play an important role. The Chattanooga area checks all of these boxes, offering high speed gigabit internet and endless support for entrepreneurs. Among them is the Hamilton County Business Development Center’s INCubator, which has been aiding entrepreneurs since 1988, well before incubators became the “cool new thing.”

Incubators help new businesses by providing a range of resources, from financial to technical. Though incubators vary in services offered, many startups can take advantage of office and manufacturing space with lower-than-market-price rents and shared administrative resources. Most importantly, startups in incubators benefit from mentorship.

Offering area entrepreneurs all of the resources they might need bundled in one place, the INCubator is the largest business incubator in the state of Tennessee and the third-largest in the country. Since its opening, the INCubator has graduated more than 530 small businesses into the community. Located at 100 Cherokee Boulevard, the Business Development Center building itself boasts a strong business history tracing back to the 1920s, when it was constructed as a furniture warehouse. It served as home to American Lava Corp, 3M (which acquired American Lava Corp in 1953) and later General Electric. In 1984, General Electric donated the building to Hamilton County, and plans began to convert the building into an incubator. After several years of working to secure funding, the INCubator opened with 31 businesses and in 1998, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce took over operations. Less than 10 years after its official opening, the INCubator boasted 62 businesses in residence and 83 graduates with an 85 percent success rate and more than 800 jobs created.

Since then, the INCubator has continued to serve small businesses and startups in Hamilton County. In addition to graduating more than 530 small businesses, it has created thousands of jobs. Today, the INCubator is home to 50 businesses at various stages of development.  From 3D printing to financial planning, INCubator companies represent the many industries that make up Hamilton County’s diverse economy. 

The INCubator at the Hamilton County Business Development Center plays an integral role in Chattanooga’s overall startup ecosystem. The INCubator provides its startups with guidance, workspace and even three years of membership to the Chattanooga Chamber, further integrating its companies into the local business community.

Want to be a part of something great? Learn more about the INCubator and its resources here