Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship, NACET:
Based in a small town in northern Arizona, this business incubation is fostering the growth of emerging companies with big ideas, while also creating jobs and expediting the commercialization of technology-based companies’ products.
Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET) began as a virtual program in 2000 until it rooted the organization in Flagstaff. The 10,000-square-foot building housing 24 offices and six labs was completed Nov. 2008.
The organization is shedding light on and executing a different approach to increasing economic development in the area ― economic gardening. This approach grows companies locally so they have a much better chance of remaining in the area, instead of relocating many times, says Russ Yelton, president and CEO of NACET.
Linked to eight incubators in six foreign countries, NACET provides technology commercialization services both domestically and internationally with accepted clients specializing in different realms, including clean energy, biotech and software.
The organization provides entrepreneurs the essential elements to success, according to Yelton, with one-on-one assistance setting quarterly goals as well as helping clients meet said goals, provide student teams advanced software, and access to its laboratory, which includes millions of dollars of equipment.
NACET has more than 40 mentors in addition to regular staff; the mentors are comprised of various professionals, including attorneys, CPAs and others.
“As we’re working with the clients and developing their plans and many times their management, which we spend a lot of time doing, we can get a contract reviewed by an attorney or a marketing plan reviewed by someone who does just that,” Yelton says.
NACET also functions as a tech transfer office for Northern Arizona University.
“We assess with all of the technology transfer activities, and make sure the companies have access to patents coming out of there,” Yelton says.
Since its opening in 2008, NACET is now 100 percent occupied with 33 companies, all of which are expected to graduate and be self sufficient within one to five years, depending on the type of company.
Less than two years ago, NACET housed nine companies, and the organization’s success only continues to flourish.
In 2009, NACET’s clients spent $17 million, had a regional impact of $29 million, and NACET documented 103 new jobs created on an average salary of $85,000, Yelton says.
NACET has met and exceeded its goals, its EDA grant requires it to create 500 jobs in 10 years. Yelton says they estimate it will be done in six to seven years.
Yelton owes NACET’s success to its linkage to the community. Funded by the City of Flagstaff and NAU, NACET has “specific, very strategic alliances,” all of which co-promote one another.
“Without the support of the city, university and other organizations, there’s no way we can have the success we have,” Yelton says. “Because of the EDA grant, our program is also regional so we have clients from Phoenix all the way to Flagstaff.”
NACET is even involved with the reservations, including the San Carlos Apache tribe, which has recently opened an incubator focusing on Native American artists. NACET helps to provide training to the incubator manager as well as training to entrepreneurs on the reservation.
NACET is also under contract with the Navajo Nation for an incubator feasibility study, as well as in discussion with the Hopi tribe to identify potential models that will work on the reservation. However, there are challenges.
“Because (reservations) have such high unemployment, part of our focus has been on looking at things that a lot of Native Americans purchase off the reservations and identify opportunities for entrepreneurs on the reservations to start those businesses to provide those items and services,” Yelton says.
From the reservation to the university, NACET also provides a working environment for students in its hands-on internship program as well as its Student Business Incubator program, where students learn the ins and outs of effectively managing, marketing and running a small business.
According to Yelton, the program, in short, sends this message to students: “Why go find a job when you can create one for yourself.”
Above all, it’s the opportunity to network that is one of the most attractive qualities of NACET and its services.
“We have a lot of instances where we have one client, and we will see potential benefit of relationship with another client; so there’s a lot of introductions,” Yelton says. “To be able to sit down with a lot of your peers who are also undergoing a lot of the same business-development-related experiences is something you can’t get if you rent an office by yourself.”
For more information about NACET, visit www.nacet.org or call 928-213-9234.
Advice from the CEO:
1. Don’t fall in love with your technology. Just because you can do something cool in the lab doesn’t mean anyone else cares.
2. Realize your own limitations. No one in business is an expert in all areas. Realize how far you can grow a company and when you need to bring in management that has more experience and capabilities than you do.
2225 N. Gemini Dr.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001