Deborah Tillett, President / Executive Director

By Henry Mortimer

Are business “incubators” a nicety or a necessity for economic growth in the 21st century? This question has been on a lot of people’s minds recently, following Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh’s March 1 announcement that he will defund the Chesapeake Innovation Center this summer.

According to Deb Tillett, president and executive director of the Emerging Technology Centers, or ETC, an incubator can serve not only as a must-have for any new company, it also can contribute critically to the greater good.

“For nearly 20 years, the ETC has offered startups a safe and controlled environment in which to grow,” says Tillett, who joined as head of the organization in 2012. “We provide affordable, flexible rent, along with basic business services, resources, mentors, and more. Basically, everything you need to get your job done.”

And, she says, the results speak for themselves: In 2016, the ETC, which serves as a non-profit venture of the Baltimore Development Corporation, provided assistance to nearly 185 companies, in various stages of growth, including 89 new firms and 79 graduates. Nearly half of it current companies are minority- and women-owned enterprises. However, the companies and their employees aren’t the only ones to benefit from the ETC.

“We have an economic impact on Baltimore,” Tillett insists. “Every time we work with someone, and they add a new full-time employee, we have just created a new job for the city of Baltimore.”

In fact, the organization’s website states that, between its current member companies and graduate companies, the ETC has contributed to the creation of more than 6,000 jobs in the city — an estimated impact of $1.24 billion. Also, of the 450-plus companies the ETC has served since its inception in 1999, 83% are still in business, 75% have chosen to stay in Baltimore, and 98% remain in Maryland.

Tillett equates the ETC’s success to its tailored approach to helping each entrepreneur and company: “We don’t just give them a program they must do, we offer what they need when they need it, one entrepreneur at a time.”

Connect with Deborah on LinkedIn

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