The Marietta Community Foundation has made a matching donation of $15,000 to Building Bridges to Careers for the expansion of their Epicenter. This expansion will include an all new location, to be announced at the kick-off event Wednesday, November 15 at 4:30 p.m. at the Buckeye Hills Regional Council. The new location affords the Epicenter enough space to introduce a larger incubator space for entrepreneurs as well as a new makerspace that is open to the community.

Currently located in the Armory on Front Street in Marietta, the Epicenter includes an incubator space with around 1200 sq.ft. Used as a shared office space by startups and small businesses, the incubator space provides entrepreneurs with a physical business location where they share equipment and split overhead costs with other entrepreneurs. Businesses in the incubator space benefit from these lower costs but also give back by working with area students to fulfil the overall Building Bridges to Careers mission of creating successful students and prosperous communities. This incubator space is the first of its kind for the Mid-Ohio Valley area.

The Epicenter has received a tremendous amount of support from numerous area partners from its opening in January 2017 to its current expansion. The Marietta Community Foundation, Voinovich School and Alex Bandar (founder of the Columbus, Ohio makerspace the Idea Foundry) have all been instrumental in securing the new Epicenter location. The family run Ross Foundation has been one such supporter. Through their own initiatives with Innovate MOV, the Ross Foundation identified the importance of support systems for up and coming entrepreneurs. Though their primary focus is on the revitalization of Downtown Parkersburg, the Ross Foundation identified the benefit a larger incubator and all-ages makerspace would bring to the entire Mid-Ohio Valley.

Though a newer concept for the area, incubators and makerspaces have been popular in larger cities for several years now as a way to stimulate the economy through support of small businesses. The spaces allow small businesses and entrepreneurs to use shared equipment while creating product prototypes or even small production runs. These spaces can run from basic to advanced housing equipment like sewing machines or 3D printers and be centered on specific age ranges, like pre-K to 20 years, or open to all.

“The introduction of an incubator and makerspace for the area allows us to be more competitive with larger cities. Akin to the Idea Foundry in Columbus, Ohio, our makerspace will provide a shared workspace for a wide variety of makers, crafters, hobbyists and aspiring entrepreneurs of all ages, said Tasha Werry, Building Bridges to Careers Director. “We hope to continue receiving community support for our efforts to provide a unique community outlet for creativity and innovation.”

The Epicenter is still seeking funders to ensure the success of this new expansion. Interested parties can help by spreading the word to generate additional community interest, donating materials or supplies directly to Building Bridges to Careers, or providing sponsorship or funding to the center through the Marietta Community Foundation. The kick-off event on November 15 is free and open to the public.