WARREN Courthouse Square welcomed a new $3.1 million neighbor as Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center, or TBEIC, announced its plans Thursday to renovate the Kresge Building downtown.
TBEIC, a resource center for entrepreneurs in the early stages of developing and commercializing their clean energy technologies, house laboratories for testing inventions in the building and feature flexible office and meeting spaces there.
Chris Mather, chief executive of National Initiatives for TBEIC, said the business incubator focused on clean energy is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Cleveland-based non-profit Jump Start.
A crowd gathered Thursday on Warren’s Courthouse Square, outside the planned location for the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center, or TBEIC, a green business incubator. Parked nearby was the “geovolt,” an invention aimed at producing green energy from geo pressures emitted in the natural gas drilling industry. TBEIC officials and the machine’s inventor are partnering to work together on the geovolt project. Photo by Margaret Thompson
According to Mather, the center's plan has three steps. First, the building will be renovated and LEED Certified. That stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design," a rating system for design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.
Once the center is open, he says step two is using money from the Department of Energy to mentor and coach entrepreneurs. He says TBEIC will help connect them with funding that they may not know is available. Finally, Mather says the shared resource center will provide the new business owners with the tools to get their product to the market.
TBEIC is expected to bring numerous benefits to the Warren area.
"Even if we were bringing in entrepreneurs from outside the region, it will have the 'Halo effect,'" said Mather. He explained this is when businesses that start in the incubator decide to base themselves locally.
Mather said in 2004, he and others at Jump Start, a non-profit that also assists entrepreneurs, realized that northeast Ohio was "fly over country" for venture capitalists, meaning big investors simply fly over the area to get to their main cities of investment. This, Mather said, makes the area excellent for entry level funding of entrepreneurs, who he said would not be able to get investments in larger cities.
TBEIC will be helping to launch not only new business owners but will be providing work for the three local companies involved in renovation the downtown location.
Phillips Sekanick Architects Inc. has been approved to lead the building's design and renovation, which will restore the buildings original facade including reinstalling the original arch windows on the second floor.
"I and the rest of the team at Phillips Sekanick are thrilled to have the opportunity to work on this project," said Bruce Sekanick AIA, Architect and a Director of Phillips Sekanick, in a press release Thursday.
In addition, DeSalvo Construction and Chambers Murphy & Burge Restoration Architects will be involved in the building's construction.
Mayor Doug Franklin is excited about what TBEIC means for the Warren area.
"I'm just pleased that all the labor is paying off," said Franklin. "It certainly is going to add to the momentum downtown."
Franklin was referring to recent renovations in downtown Warren that have been reinvigorating the area. The Raymond John Wean Foundation's $2.5 million renovation of their downtown location opened in July and the restored home for National Fire & Water Repair opened in the fall of 2011. TBEIC's plans to fill the courthouse square location have been in the works since it was announced in 2010, but word on its actualization was kept quiet, leaving locals wondering if it would ever happen.
All of these renovations, "point to an exciting future," said Franklin who hopes they will make "living in downtown Warren a greater possibility."