Economic Partnerships Join University and Local Business Community

Posted: October 3, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Roger Stough, director of the Mason Enterprise Center
Roger Stough, director of the Mason Enterprise Center, spoke last week at the grand opening of a new center at the Prince William Campus.

By Robin Herron

When start-up Blue Collar Objects, an information technology firm, joined the Mason Enterprise Center’s business incubator in 2002, the company had four employees and revenues of $500,000.

Bolstered by the incubator, Fairfax Innovation Center, Blue Collar Objects now has a staff roster that lists 44 employees and books that show revenues of more than $4 million.

The fledgling company took advantage of the incubator’s low-cost, shared facilities in the heart of Fairfax City that include offices, receptionist services and office equipment. Other benefits were free, one-on-one business counseling; networking and partnering opportunities; and a program providing an independent evaluation of the company’s marketing, organizational and financial perspectives.

“We’ve used everything at the incubator, but the key things for us were being able to create a great first impression with our clients when they walked in the door and having the ability to grow safely and carefully,” says Daniel Marsh, Blue Collar Objects vice president of marketing. “If we just needed to expand by one room, we could do that and not have to commit to a long-term contract.”

Marsh also appreciated the opportunity to take classes at the incubator and discuss mutual concerns with other incubator clients. “It gives you confidence, and small businesses need that confidence.”

Contributing to the Local Economy

Hoping to replicate such successes in another part of the region, the Mason Enterprise Center, part of the School of Public Policy, last week opened a new center at the Prince William Campus. Roger Stough, director of the Mason Enterprise Center and associate dean for research, development and external relations in the School of Public Policy, says the center decided to open a branch in Prince William because the campus is becoming an employment magnet for the county.

“We’re interested in small companies that want to grow fast. The campus attracts small companies that have a technical business model and have the potential to grow very rapidly. We think we can make a difference in how many of those grow fast and how much they contribute to the region’s economy.”

Like the facility in Fairfax, the Prince William center provides affordable office and conference space and shared administrative support and business services to start-up and emerging growth companies, especially those owned by women and minorities. A telework center offers federal employees, small companies and larger expanding companies a professional office environment for a convenient, inexpensive alternative to commuting.

According to Keith Segerson, managing director of the Mason Enterprise Center, three clients have already signed on at Prince William, two from Prince William County and one that is relocating from Fairfax County.

Bull Run Hall
The Mason Enterprise Center at Prince William is located on the ground floor of Bull Run Hall.
Creative Services photos

Prince William Links with Business and Community

“Partnership, partnership, partnership is what the Prince William Campus will continue to be about,” said Larry Czarda, vice president of the Prince William Campus, in an interview nearly two years ago. He’s kept his word.

Named 2001-02 Business of the Year by the Prince William County-Greater Manassas Chamber of Commerce, the campus also maintains close ties with the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce.

In fact, when the Mason Enterprise Center opened in Prince William last week, the ink was barely dry on a memorandum of understanding with the regional chamber. Under the MOU, the chamber has agreed to provide marketing and business consulting support to the MEC. Discussions with the Manassas chamber are also under way, Segerson says.

Opened in 1997 as part of the county high-tech office park known as Innovation@Prince William, the campus has encouraged mutually beneficial relationships with the private sector. One example is the partnership between the School of Computational Sciences and the American Type Culture Collection, which share facilities along with ongoing research and workshop collaboration.

The Prince William Campus is growing right along with the county. The campus opened a new academic building, Bull Run Hall, last fall. An expansion of the popular Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center, built as a partnership of George Mason, Prince William County and the City of Manassas, is on the drawing boards. And arts lovers in the country are excited about the planned Community Performing Arts Center, another joint effort between the university and the community, tentatively set to open in 2009.

With the county’s plan to create a “town center” on land near the campus, shops, restaurants and even housing will likely come to the area, an added attraction for businesses located or considering locating to Innovation@Prince William. No doubt this new plan will create even more opportunities for future partnerships.

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