Town replaces Queen Creek Incubator company-assistance program with Gangplank collaborative workspace

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Home-based and other businesses that do not have a storefront can once again receive assistance in reaching a wider share of the marketplace through a new program being offered by the town of Queen Creek. Gangplank is a collaborative workspace that provides free space in which to conduct business and hold meetings and events, according to the Chandler-based company’s website: http://gangplankhq.com/.

The new program replaces the QC Incubator program, which needed to be reenergized, Doreen Cott, the town’s economic development director, said during a presentation at the Feb. 18 regular meeting of the Queen Creek Town Council.

“QC Inc. did not have the return on the investment we expected but Gangplank is a sage one-year investment,” Councilman Craig Barnes said at the meeting.

QC Inc. was a business-development program funded by the town; it opened for business in February 2011, according to information in the Feb. 18 council packet. Its goals were to assist individuals who wanted to start a business and help existing companies to grow by providing affordable office space, free business services and business counseling, according to the packet.

Tenants leased their individual, private spaces in the QC Inc. building at 22713 S. Ellsworth Road for $166 a month, or $20 per square foot, according to the packet.

The 5,760-square-foot building was shared with the Queen Creek Chamber of Commerce. As part of a service agreement with the town, the chamber oversaw QC Inc.’s front office staff and the building operations. It also oversaw the tourism center, which also was in the QC Inc. building, Chris Clark, executive director of the Queen Creek chamber, said during an interview.

In March 2012, the council asked Ms. Cott and her staff to review the QC Incubator program and report on whether to continue it, according to  minutes from the March 21, 2012 council meeting. Council members discussed whether the town should act more aggressively to attract revenue-generating and high-tech businesses while moving away from service-based on home occupation businesses and cutting down on town expenditures, according to the minutes.

The town ended the program in November, when the last QC Inc. participant left the program, Mr. Clark said.

At their Feb. 18 regular session, council members voted 6-1 to approve a one-year professional services and license agreement not to exceed $10,000 with Gangplank Collective LLC. The $10,000 includes $8,000 for Gangplank’s services and an amount not to exceed $2,000 to purchase office equipment for its new office space in the Ellsworth House, 22246 S. Ellsworth Road, immediately north of the Queen Creek Town Hall, 22350 S. Ellsworth Road.

The town is moving the chamber, tourism center and future business-assistance program to the 3,550-square-foot Ellsworth House to make room for the Queen Creek substation of Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which had outgrown its 3,200-square-foot space at 22626 S. Ellsworth Road, Ms. Cott said.

The chamber will continue its service agreement with the town to oversee the business-assistance program’s front office staff, building operations and tourism center in exchange for free rent, Mr. Clark said.

The agreement the council approved with Gangplank is for one year, but includes an option to approve the agreement for up to an additional four, one-year agreements, Ms. Cott said during her presentation.
The Gangplank services fee will be included as part of the overall economic development budget, according to Ms. Cott.

Voting in favor of the proposal were Mayor Gail Barney, Vice Mayor Julia Wheatley and council members Robin Benning, Mr. Barnes, Jeff Brown and Dawn Oliphant.

The program can provide opportunities for home-based business operators to work in a brick-and-mortar office and network with other business people, Ms. Oliphant said at the meeting.

“It’s really something to see business owners share ideas. They don’t get that interaction if they’re working at home,” Ms. Oliphant said.

Councilwoman Emilena Turley cast the dissenting vote.

“I think we all as a council want to be pro-business, we just differ in philosophy. I think it’s a better approach to cut taxes and fees for all businesses in the amount of $10,000 a year than to subsidize a handful of businesses, and in fact offered that as an alternate solution during the meeting,” Ms. Turley said during a phone interview Feb. 19.

The Gangplank office space in Queen Creek is expected to be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, Ms. Cott said. Registration is not required. Users can drop in and use the office space in a central co-working area for free, she said. Users will not lease private offices as was offered as part of QC Inc., according to the information packet.

The use of a photocopier and Wi-Fi access will be offered for free, Ms. Cott said. No phone service will be offered since most business people have personal cell phones, she said.

The move took place during the first week in March, Mr. Clark said during a phone interview Feb. 26.

The chamber and tourism center should open immediately after the move, he said. Gangplank should launch in late March, Ms. Cott said.

For more information, visit www.queencreek.org or call 480-358-3000.

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