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EDC to open second business incubator in NPR

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Published:   |   Updated: March 14, 2014 at 09:18 AM

NEW PORT RICHEY — The former post office in New Port Richey could begin deliveries again soon, but this time as an incubator to hatch startup companies.

May 1 is the target date to reopen the building at 6347 Grand Blvd., interim City Manager Susan Dillinger announced.

Pasco Economic Development Council will use about two-thirds of the 9,000 square feet for its SMARTStart incubator program, according to PEDC Vice President John Walsh.

The city will reserve about one-third of the space for its “makerspace” program, Dillinger elaborated Wednesday. Makerspaces are open community laboratories that provide tools and equipment for individuals to design prototypes of products and manufacture them, Dillinger elaborated.

The building has sat vacant for years. The site served as a post office through 1976 and later became Pasco Office Supply before First Baptist Church of New Port Richey bought it. In 2005, the city purchased the property.

The reincarnation of the building began last year during a community cleanup campaign on April 27. Some 40 volunteers spruced up the facility.

The new mission for the building already has drawn some nibbles of interest from possible tenants, Walsh said Wednesday.

“I’m doing all the groundwork,” Walsh explained about setting up the facility for the business incubator.

Walsh has toured the building twice in recent weeks with Dillinger, NPR Economic Development Director Mario Iezzoni and other city officials. They are figuring out what to order in the way of equipment, office furniture and other gear.

Once the building opens, Krista Covey will take the reins of management as SMARTStart director and PEDC’s economic development manager.

“We’re ready to talk to people,” Walsh said about possible tenants. PEDC got some interest from two potential clients already.

SMARTStart caters to self-employed people or home-business operators who want to take the next step to expand and hire staff. The center in New Port Richey would be Pasco County’s second, joining the one at the Dade City Business Center. The East Pasco incubator program will serve as the model for the New Port Richey venture.

“We’d love to work with them,” Walsh said. Call the main PEDC office phone at (813) 926-0827(813) 926-0827 or toll-free (888)-607-2726(888)-607-2726.

Dillinger, donning her New Port Richey Public Library director’s hat, is enthusiastic to launch the makerspace program.

“Public libraries have emerged as leading partners in the makerspace movement,” she wrote in an email reply Wednesday, adding, “A public library can develop making programs that would be accessible to children, young adults, and families.”

Makerspaces are public community laboratories, Dillinger elaborated. The collaborative learning facilities provide tools and equipment to individuals with the ability to design, prototype and manufacture tangible products.

Experts say the movement is gaining popularity in public, academic, medical and school libraries, Dillinger said.

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