NEW PORT RICHEY — Final renovations are taking a bit longer than city officials expected, but the new business incubator could open soon in the downtown area.
The former post office building at 6347 Grand Blvd. will become the SmartSTART incubator to help fledgling firms expand and hire more staff. Pasco Economic Development Council leaders report that interest is keen among potential tenants.
The New Port Richey Public Library’s makerspace program will share quarters in the building. People will develop prototypes of products in the makerspace.
Mayor Rob Marlowe strolls over to the incubator site most every day from his Gulf Coast Networking computer business several doors east of the new venture.
Crews installed vinyl flooring that closely resembles a wooden floor in hallways and common spaces, the mayor marveled. Office spaces have “very nice carpets.”
“I’m excited” by progress, Marlowe said, even though the May 1 target date turned out a bit optimistic.
“My hope is that these businesses will do well, they’ll grow, they’ll outgrow their space here and have to move into some of the (vacant) office space that we’ve got in the downtown,” Marlowe said, adding, “And that will help everybody in the downtown.”
Marlowe noted he has operated his business at a downtown location for about a decade.
“We like it, it’s very convenient,” Marlowe said. “It’s easy for me … to commute. I only live a mile from here. It’s easy to go and walk over to any one of the restaurants to have a meal. It’s just beautiful.”
The new site will be unusual with a combination of a business incubator and makerspace program, Mario Iezzoni pointed out as the city’s economic development manager.
A 3-D printer will be among tools available in the makerspace area. The only other business in Pasco County with a 3-D printer is The Object Shop, in the Wesley Chapel area.
People operating a business out of a garage or home will be able to refine products at the incubator site, Iezzoni emphasized. A grant through the city library for $100,000 will help fund the program.
“Safety training is really important,” Iezzoni commented.
Business professionals will be on hand to advise how to market products developed from the makerspace area.
The beehive of activity stands in stark contrast to many years when the building sat vacant.
The site was a post office through 1976 and later became Pasco Office Supply before First Baptist Church of New Port Richey bought it. The city purchased the property in 2005.
The reincarnation of the building began last year during a community cleanup campaign on April 27. Some 40 volunteers spruced up the facility.