Frederick incubator seeks expansion to keep firms in county
Three sites eyed for new wet lab space
Michael J. Dailey wants more space so some of his larger incubator tenants aren't working on top of each other.
Dailey, executive director of the Frederick Innovative Technology Center Inc. business incubator, said he is seeking mezzanine wet lab space from 1,000 to 10,000 total square feet in Frederick for the incubator's larger bioscience tenants.
There is "great demand for that kind of lab space in Frederick," he said, and incubator officials are evaluating three possible locations: 7320 Executive Way, with about 18,000 square feet; 7210 Corporate Court, about 12,000 square feet; and a location on Pegasus Court, which has close to 11,000 square feet of lab space and 8,000 square feet of warehouse space.
Such an expansion is key to keeping incubator graduates in Frederick County, Dailey said.
"The worst thing we could do is incubate biotech companies ... and then have them move to Montgomery County because there's not enough space available," he said.
Some graduates have done just that, Dailey said, pointing to Integrated BioTherapeutics, a 2009 graduate that recently moved from 6,000 square feet in Germantown to 10,500 square feet in Gaithersburg.
"There's a real need to provide that transitional space that interim three- to five-year time frame when their growth really takes hold and to have lab space built out for them," Dailey said.
Dailey shared a proposal about new mezzanine wet lab space with Frederick County Commissioner Billy Shreve (R), who declined to comment. Dailey said he hopes to work with all the county commissioners on a possible expansion.
Build-out costs would be minimal, according to Dailey, who, with other incubator officials, is exploring several options to fund the expansion, including partnerships with private companies.
"Wet lab build-out costs normally range anywhere from $150 per square foot to as much as $500 depending upon the type of wet lab, the amount of equipment and the facilities required," incubator officials said in their proposal.
To date, the incubator has produced 35 Frederick businesses that have generated 229 direct jobs with combined annual revenues of $26.58 million, according to incubator information.
Incubator officials expect to decide on the expansion by the end of the year, Dailey said. The incubator has been at its current 17,000-square-foot location on Metropolitan Court since 2006 after previously operating in a 10,000-square-foot location at Hood College.
The incubator is at full capacity, Dailey said, with 32 tenants and a waiting list of about six companies. However, "it's very hard to say you have a waiting list because if someone is really going to start a company, they're not going to wait," he said.
Dailey identified incubators in Germantown and Hagerstown as his biggest competitors. The Frederick incubator's work with groups such as Fort Detrick and the National Cancer Institute in Frederick is what sets his apart, he said.
"I think our lab is priced very, very attractively for small, startup companies," Dailey said.
Other incubators in the state have seen an uptick in activity, according to Sarah Djamshidi, president of the Maryland Business Incubation Association.
The state has about 20 incubators, said Djamshidi, who also is executive director of the Chesapeake Innovation Center incubator in Annapolis.
More incubators in the state are taking on virtual clients, she said, and "all of us have seen an increase in demand."
The Frederick incubator plans to graduate at least three companies this year, including Kempbio and UR Solar Power. Christopher W. Kemp, Kempbio's president, said his company was able to meet one of its current customers at an incubator event and a new mezzanine wet lab space "would be our first choice" if it becomes available in Frederick.
"In starting a business, there are so many aspects that are difficult," said Kemp, whose company joined the incubator in 2009 and has grown from two to five employees. Kempbio provides protein expression and cell culture services to other bioscience companies.
In addition to expanding its wet lab space, Dailey and other incubator officials want to relocate the facility to a new, bigger location at the Riverside Research Park in Frederick.
But those plans are on hold because of budget problems faced by officials at the city, county and state levels, Dailey said.