Franklin Business Incubator includes 28 businesses

Published 9:26 am Wednesday, March 6, 2013

John Rabil Jr. owner of Rabil Law Firm, researches a case from his fourth-floor office at the Franklin Business Incubator. -- ANDREW FAISON/TIDEWATER NEWS

John Rabil Jr. owner of Rabil Law Firm, researches a case from his fourth-floor office at the Franklin Business Incubator. — ANDREW FAISON/TIDEWATER NEWS


FRANKLIN—The Franklin Business Incubator has grown to include 28 businesses that employ a total of 151 full- and part-time workers.

Designed to serve startup companies, the historic city-owned building operated by Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc. has been the perfect place for Attorney John Rabil Jr.

“The incubator has reasonable rates and has all the services that a business needs to get started,” said Rabil, who opened The Rabil Law Firm there one year ago.

The incubator, which supports new businesses through shared office equipment, custodial services, resource libraries, security and conference rooms, got its start from a discussion between the Federal Economic Development Administration and FSEDI, said Nancy Parrish, small business development manager for FSEDI.

The renovation of the former buggy factory at 601 N. Mechanic St. began in 2004 and opened in May 2005. The work was completed in October 2011. Most of the work was grant funded.

“Before the renovation (of the remaining 1½ floors) was complete, we were at 100 percent capacity,” Parrish said. “We even had businesses in a few of our conference rooms as well as a waiting list.”

Now 72 percent occupied, eight businesses moved there in 2012 and two this year. The incubator has 14 vacant offices ranging from 125 to 2,000 square feet.

“To be approved, a potential business has to have an idea, a passion to start a business, a business plan and a financial plan for the first three to five years of the business,” Parrish said.

Retail shops do not qualify.

“The incubator is here not to take away from the businesses in the downtown area,” she said. “We have everything from pest control to counseling services here and hope to help our businesses grow to the point that they too will take their places within the business community.”

A business plan has to include goals, objectives and milestones, she said.

“As well as enough flexibility built in to that plan to know that if ‘Plan A’ doesn’t work, there is always a ‘Plan B.’”

Parrish is looking forward to filling the space as well as adding to the companies that have moved on.

“We have had 10 graduates so far, some of which came here from North Carolina as well as the Hampton Roads areas, just to start their business,” she said. “Those graduates that have gone back still have ties to this area as well as this incubator, most notably still using the services of accountants and lawyers that are in the building.”

Rabil would encourage anyone starting a business to look at the incubator.

“The environment in the building is perfect for networking with all kinds of businesses, and everyone in here has the same goal to grow their business,” he said.

After seeing so many startup businesses, Rabil will expand his practice to include small to medium corporate law.

“It’s thanks to the environment of this incubator that I hope to grow more as well as partner with other local businesses,” he said.