Since opening its doors in February 2017, the Lake Martin Innovation Center has grown to become the go-to resource for launching a small business in Alexander City and the Lake Martin area. In late 2016, the former bank operations center was converted into a business incubator and coworking space by the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Valley National Bank. Just over a year into its existence, the facility is currently home to seven small businesses.
Existing tenants span sectors from legal to private equity and IT to healthcare. Combined, they’ve been responsible for creating over 40 jobs with continued growth forthcoming. In addition, the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce is also housed inside the Lake Martin Innovation Center with its staff of five overseeing the day-to-day operations.
“We knew from the beginning that launching a business incubator and co-working space could be a challenging concept for a rural community,” said Alexander City Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Ed Collari. “But we also recognized a need here locally for providing support and resources for entrepreneurs and startups. Traveling around to the various parts of the state where ideas like ours have taken root and learning from their leaders allowed us to craft a model that fit the needs of the people in our area.”
One of the Innovation Center’s first tenants is Beyond Home Care, which is an in-home personal and elderly care service. Founder and CEO Kelly Adams modeled the service after a family member’s business in another part of the state. After deciding to launch the concept in the Lake Martin region, Beyond Home Care launched in February of 2017 and has since grown to employ as many as 60 caregivers (depending on client demands) who have logged 18,000 client hours meeting the needs of 57 clients.
“Being a tenant of the Lake Martin Innovation has been an integral part of growing our business so quickly and keeping our overhead low,” said Adams, who utilized the Innovation Center’s partnership with Auburn University for an introduction to the Alabama Launchpad Auburn Regional Startup Competition where Beyond Home Care reached the finals. “The networking opportunities through the Innovation Center have allowed us to connect with key members of the community, while the facility itself provides valuable resources and technology at an affordable cost. It’s been a wonderful experience.”
In addition to the space for small businesses, the Innovation Center has served as a business resource to over 30 co-working members. For a nominal monthly fee of $50, co-working membership offers 24/7 access to the facility, which is equipped with high-speed fiber internet. It also includes access to shared space with state-of-the-art audio/visual technology throughout the building, including multiple conference rooms and meeting spaces.
Matthew Bean is the Managing Director at Lowden Street Capital, a private equity startup that focuses on helping rural small business owners find an exit for their business. “Working at the Innovation Center has been really fantastic,” said Bean. “I worked at a coworking spot in Dallas (Foundry Club) while I was in grad school, and though the LMIC isn't surrounded by restaurants and shopping, it has the same benefits for small business owners. I like it and it has been perfect for me so far.”
Having the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce as your neighbor down the hall and as the group responsible for the Innovation Center’s operations is another added bonus. LMIC tenants and coworkers are invited to attend, free of charge, all of the Chamber’s networking opportunities and professional development workshops at the facility. With first-class office space that doubles as a great venue for events, LMIC members and businesses also enjoy great exposure to the business community with all Chamber of Commerce members being able to use the facility for meetings, employee trainings, parties and more.
“The best part about it so far is the networking component,” added Bean. “The building is slowly filling out so you get the true benefits of a coworking environment where you can chat with other owners, develop connections and learn about things that can help grow one’s own business.”
“We’re extremely proud of the progress we’ve made so far in attracting some really talented entrepreneurs, both young and some that are more experienced, but the success of the facility is just a reflection of the business owners and individuals we’re fortunate to have here,” said Collari. “We really felt like it could be a boost to our local economy as a business recruitment tool and a vehicle for job creation.”
Below is a listing of each business housed inside the Lake Martin Innovation Center:
Angela J. Hill, Attorney at Law: Attorney focusing on family law, estate planning and criminal defense with a primary focus on children’s advocacy.
Beyond Home Care: In-home, non-medical caregiving service focused on keeping patients as active as possible in their own homes to promote overall health and well-being.
Lee Williams – Nowlin & Associates Wealth Management: Investment, insurance planning and financial planning firm focused on leading clients into the new economy with savings, income, investing and legacy strategies that succeed in unpredictable market environments.
Lowden Street Capital: Private equity firm that focuses on helping rural small business owners find an exit for their business. In only its fifth month of operation, LSC portfolio companies have reached breakeven and begun generating a small level of profitability.
Servpro of Chilton, Coosa, Tallapoosa and Chambers Counties: Water and fire damage restoration, mold remediation, storm damage restoration, cleaning services.
Vue Point Diagnostics: Mobile radiology and diagnostics designed to make patient examinations and treatment faster, easier and more cost effective.
WisePoint LLC: Document capture, content management systems, portals/Intranets and custom programming.
The Lake Martin Innovation Center is a partnership between the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce and Valley National Bank. The 17,000 square foot facility, located at 175 Aliant Parkway off of Highway 280 in Alexander City, is home to the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce and features office suites for new and/or growing small businesses, plus coworking memberships.