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Higgins announces additional federal funds for Incubator; welcomes new tenants
Monday, May 17, 2010

City, University collaboration generating small business success stories

Incubator groupKevin Kennedy (left), CEO of new SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator tenant Advanced Conservation Technology (ACT), is welcomed by, from right, SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner, U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins, and SUNY Fredonia Vice President for University Advancement David Tiffany.

Hefner and HigginsSUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner watches U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins speak at a news conference at the SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator. The Congressman announced $150,000 of additional federal funding to support the region’s new economic development initiative, which was reported today to be running six-to-12 months ahead of initial occupancy expectations.

Kevin Kennedy
New tenant Kevin Kennedy is the first Western New York expatriate to return to the region due to the  SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator. His start-up business, Advanced Conservation Technology (ACT), has relocated from Philadelphia to be a part of the anticipated economic resurgence of the region.

Ray ChristopherRay Christopher's firm, TexTivia, is the first incubator tenant to release a software product, and the first to hire an employee outside of its founding members.


Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) met with new tenants of the SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator on Monday, as he received an update on one of the most creative economic development initiatives in Western New York. The Congressman also took the opportunity to announce $150,000 in funding for the Incubator, which comes in addition to the $147,500 allocated previously.

The new, $6 million, 21,000-square-foot facility opened in late 2009, thanks in part to the much-needed federal funds Congressman Higgins helped secure. Now, less than five months later, it is making a true impact on the region’s business landscape.

“Western New York is well positioned to grow jobs that embrace innovation and, with resources like this technology incubator, we are providing support for tomorrow’s thriving small businesses,” said Congressman Higgins, a member of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. “After only a few months of full operation, this new facility, through the great collaborative effort of SUNY Fredonia and the City of Dunkirk, is already producing results and providing great hope for our economic future.”

Two of the latest incubator success stories were introduced today as examples of this transformation, including one company that has returned to Western New York to be a part of it.

Advanced Conservation Technology (ACT) is a high-tech supplier of environmentally conscious building materials which result in long-term energy savings and other sustainable benefits. Its founders — two brothers who are Dunkirk natives — decided to relocate their business from Philadelphia upon learning of the opportunities the incubator provided. Better still, their business brings a manufacturing element to the region, which means new potential jobs at a variety of levels.

“As former residents of Dunkirk, we were well aware of the challenges the region faced economically, and it’s very rewarding to know that we might have a hand in turning this around for the community,” ACT Chief Executive Officer Kevin Kennedy said.

The affiliation with SUNY Fredonia is particularly attractive to these expatriates, whose products have been concepted and tested via partnerships with some of the top university research centers in the Northeast. Equally enticing was the Western New York climate – especially the winter.

“Winter conditions allow us to test the extremes of our technological parameters,” ACT Chairman Sean Kennedy added. “We market every product based upon research that proves its durability, longevity and compatibility. You just can’t beat a good Western New York winter for that.”

Stories like this are exactly what SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner had in mind when he approached area business leaders and elected officials with this concept several years ago.

“One of our biggest priorities at SUNY Fredonia is making sure the high-quality graduates we are producing have opportunities and incentives to remain right here in our region and contribute what they’ve learned to the benefit of our society,” Dr. Hefner said. “We are constantly looking for strategies to battle the ‘brain drain’ we’ve seen in recent years. Successes like this are proof that it can be done, and I’m thrilled that our new incubator is playing this important role.”

Joining ACT was another new tenant, TexTivia, headed by several local entrepreneurs who create marketing, gaming and contest products for the mobile phone industry. The company is preparing to launch its product, making it the first client in the new incubator to take its software release to market.

“The incubator’s arrival comes at a time for us that couldn’t have been better,” said TexTivia co-founder Ray Christopher, Jr. “The support we have found here has allowed us to get off the ground much sooner than had we remained on our own, and we’re eagerly anticipating the results of our launch.”

TexTivia has also distinguished itself with another first: last week, it became the first incubator tenant to hire an employee outside of its founding members.

“Some of the greatest American business success stories, such as Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, General Electric and Disney, come from those who sought innovation and investment during difficult economic times,” Higgins added. “Small business success is the lifeblood of any growing economy. It provides quality jobs and the infrastructure needed to create the foundation for long-term financial sustainability.”

The downtown Dunkirk building — the first true extension of the Fredonia campus — is attracting interest from a variety of entrepreneurs, many of which have already signed leases and occupied space in the innovative facility. In all, seven companies have moved in and at least three new contracts are expected to be signed within the next month, according to Incubator Director Bob Fritzinger.

“We’ve already received enough applications to completely fill this place,” said Fritzinger of the facility which can house up to 30 start-up entities. “Of course, we won’t do that, because we need to always have space available in case the next ‘Intel’ walks through the door. But we have a deep and exciting pipeline of companies to consider, and I’m confident that we will have many new, economically viable companies in place by year end.”

“As a partnership between federal, state, and local governments, the university, and economic development entities, the incubator provides start-up and spin-off companies with targeted resources and shared, common business functions and services. In return, a tenant company must meet only two criteria: have technology as a significant component of its business model, and be willing to remain in Western New York after it “graduates” and becomes a stand-alone firm.

As part of SUNY Fredonia — the third-largest four-year university in Western New York — the incubator also presents unique opportunities for the campus community as well, including internship and job opportunities for its students, as well as research, teaching and collaboration initiatives for its faculty and staff.

“It’s very exciting and rewarding to see this project coming to life as intended,” Dr. Hefner added. “So much hard work went into this by so many people throughout the community, from university administrators and business leaders to elected officials and area contractors. We are honored to be able to play such a pivotal role in what we hope will become the resurgence in the economic vitality of the region.


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