Merced and UC Merced look to spur new business

08/03/2014 10:23 AM

08/03/2014 7:18 PM

The city of Merced and UC Merced are looking to establish a business accelerator in downtown, what could be a mutually beneficial project.

UC Merced and city staff are working to turn 5,951 square feet of offices into a center for entrepreneurs that provides small-business development services in the Ralph Shannon Parcade, 626 W. 18th St. The city would lease it to UC Merced for 10 years at $1 a year.

The Merced City Council will consider a contract for the accelerator during its 7 p.m. meeting Monday at City Hall, 678 W. 18th St.

“We’re excited at the prospect of having a downtown presence focused on sharing our innovations with local and regional industry,” UC Merced Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Sam Traina said in a statement. “We believe that this will ultimately expand the economic base of the city of Merced and the entire region.”

The business accelerator would provide new businesses with office space and shared facilities. Along with offering relatively low rent, the building could aid new businesses with professional advice, mentoring and networking opportunities.

The accelerator is intended to provide intensive assistance to help turn an idea into a prototype or product in a matter of months, according to a press release from the city. The downtown site would include the Merced Small Business Development Center, which offers advice and assistance to business owners.

When UC Merced opened in 2005, it came with the promise of economic growth in the city. Leaders have since looked at ways to prevent “brain drain,” when the best and brightest leave the community once they’ve earned their degrees.

“The city of Merced is happy to partner with UC Merced to achieve our mutual goal of boosting the local economy through creative business endeavors,” City Manager John Bramble said in a press release. “This lease is one of the partnerships the city has with UC Merced to take advantage of the university’s deep talent pool and further blend the campus with the community.”

Bramble also said the business accelerator meets one of the long-term goals of City Council: to use the talent that comes from UC Merced to benefit the entire community. “We want to keep these businesses here in Merced,” he said.

Also on the agenda for the meeting is whether to award a bid to build a $3 million laboratory at Merced’s wastewater treatment plant, a facility that sits on 40 acres and cleans an average of 8 million gallons of water a day.

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