NBIC: Nashville incubator seeks next executive director, while strategy unfolds
By Milt Capps updated 1:35 p.m.
NBIC, the Nashville Business Incubation Center, is expected to launch its search for a new executive director after it receives an impending consultant's report on its development options.
Its current executive director, Mildred Walters, announced her resignation May 23, and will on June 30 complete a decade in NBIC's top staff role, she told VNC yesterday.
NBIC is overseen by the board of nonprofit Growth Enterprises Nashville (GEN, founded 1984) and operates as a program of the College of Business of Tennessee State University (TSU). The Center, which has graduated nearly 80 firms, is located on part of TSU Avon Williams Campus on 10th Avenue and Charlotte, downtown. In earlier years, NBIC, which can now accommodate 22 or more firms, spawned such standout local companies as Zycron, Christie Cookies, Transcender, Beacon Technologies and Dream Systems.
GEN Board Chair Valerie Smith Hayes told VNC yesterday that her group is working with the Administration of TSU to prepare for the executive search. GEN/NBIC have not yet issued a call for applicants for the post, Hayes confirmed; this story will be updated, as warranted.
VNC interviews with Smith-Hayes and Walters, yesterday, suggested that the executive director's job description and the search process, itself, remain under consideration; and, the search is likely to be influenced by results of research underway five months or more by incubator-development specialist Greenwood Consulting Group of Sanibel, Fla.
In addition to the Greenwood report, which NBIC is likely to receive this week, the GEN/NBIC board's approaching decision on NBIC leadership is likely to be influenced by a 2011 assessment of NBIC that was conducted by an industry-peer group associated with the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA), according to sources.
Additional 'unknowns' that NBIC faces: TSU College of Business Dean Tilden Curry, an ex officio member of the GEN board, is retiring June 30, and no successor is apparent. No search for Curry's successor has yet been launched by TSU Interim Provost Millicent Lownes-Jackson and/or TSU President Portia Holmes Shields, also an interim appointee who is likely to be succeeded in the TSU presidency by January 2013. The search for Shields' successor is to be conducted by the Tennessee Board of Regents, beginning in August.
VNC coverage of NBIC during the past four years has chronicled the organization's substantial change of board membership; its suspension of its once-popular business-plan competition; and, the refreshed board's determination to plan strategically to adapt to changing times, including consideration of technologies that allow some startups to operate with little more than a laptop and a seat in a coffeehouse.
The GEN/NBIC board is now very confident that the NBIC plays a unique role, and is strongly complementary of, rather than competing with such groups as the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, a source close to the situation told VNC this week.
Reflecting numerous factors, several sources indicated that NBIC intends to develop an upgraded value-added suite of resources and services, in the near future. Examples of innovation by peer incubators in other cities nationwide are routinely eyed, Walters said in an earlier interview.
In fact, NBIC apparently has growth and leadership on its collective mind: The Greenwood study was commissioned partly to determine the adequacy of the Center's physical plant, given that under one scenario the Center would aim to increase its capacity from the current 26 slots to 50, or more. For more details, see VNC's earlier report. VNC has been unable to confirm whether or not the Greenwood report will also touch on capital requirements and fundraising opportunities.
The Nashville landscape is now dotted with business, nonprofit and ad-hoc volunteer organizations that did not exist 26 years ago when NBIC was founded, largely through the efforts of Jennie Lemon, who powered the organization as it sought a formative TVA economic-development grant, according to a source.
Today, in addition to the NEC, recently established resources include local universities' entrepreneurship programs and student-business launchpads; Jumpstart Foundry, Bullpen Ventures and other accelerators, as well as increasingly active Angel networks and VC and private-equity firms. In addition, statewide and regional in-state resources, including StartupTennessee and Tennessee Technology Development Corporation (Launch Tennessee, as TTDC is now branded), have added greatly to the state's venture ecosystem.
Walters told VNC that she intends to focus fulltime on coaching business owners through BizOwner Coach, an LLC she created in Fall 2009, according to state records online. VNC