Miami University’s $15M business incubator a ‘big deal’ for Butler County, leaders say

OXFORD — Miami University officials led local city and area business executives on a recent tour of the school’s coming $15 million business incubator designed to help grow various industries throughout Butler County.

Still under construction, the off-campus College@Elm Innovation and Workforce Development Center at 20 South Elm St. is being done in partnership with the city of Oxford and Butler County businesses and is expected to be opened for operations in January, said Miami officials who conducted the site’s first tour.

“It’s a big deal, and it’s going to result in some good impact for this area,” said Miami University President Gregory Crawford.

School officials said the College@Elm facility will house office space, an entrepreneurship center, startups, a workforce and small business development resource center, a design and testing area and space for manufacturing operations in a former Miami food services building vacant for 19 years.

It will have two anchor tenants — Miami, operating an Entrepreneurship Training and Incubator Center — and the Fischer Group, a Butler county manufacturing company, operating a business expansion they call their innovation extension, said officials.

“We collaborated to figure out what it would be and what it would look like and how we would attract companies and how the community would play a role in it. It’s just been a fantastic relationship,” said Crawford of the $15 million center, which will be the first of its kind at both Miami and in Butler County.

“You’ll look around the country, and I’ve been a part of many different incubators in Providence (College) and South Bend (Notre Dame University) and now in the southwest Ohio area, but they didn’t really have space for the office pieces and small startups,” Crawford told the tour group.

“We’re going to have space for new companies, we’re going to have the rapid prototyping, we’re going to have a real machine shop and build a real prototype, and we’re going to have manufacturing capability. It’s going to be very special.”

The business incubator construction is part of a $169 million construction boom on and off the main Oxford campus of Miami, which is Butler County’s largest employer with regional campuses in Hamilton and Middletown and a Learning Center in West Chester Twp.

Among the speakers was Tim Holcomb, chair and director of Miami’s John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship, who said: “Over the past decade, our alumni have founded and/or led more than a dozen unicorn companies. Those are private companies with a market valuation of a billion dollars or more.”

“Central to the design of our program is a fundamental belief in the transformational power of learning by doing. We don’t spend a lot of time teaching students about things. We teach them to do things. That requires a lot of time and effort,” said Holcomb.

“We’re obviously excited about College@Elm, and the opportunity to create a more collaborative environment, more collaborative opportunities for the programs across campus.”

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