Expansion ahead for Epicenter

Christiane Marshall, publisher of Marietta and Beyond digital magazine, works in the BB2C Epicenter in the ground floor of the Armory on Wednesday. MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times

The Epicenter is shifting.

The space dedicated to start-up businesses and assistance for entrepreneurs is moving from the ground floor of the Armory, where it has functioned since January, across the Muskingum to the Tenney and Associates building on Lancaster Street. The move is planned for the first of the year.

It will allow a dramatic expansion of services, Epicenter director Pamela Lankford said. The space in the Armory is a single room divided into cubicles and table spaces, with a conference room, totaling about 1,200 square feet. The new digs in the Tenney building cover more than twice that and offers mixed space that includes closed offices and open areas.

Epicenter is one branch of Building Bridges to Careers, an agency that includes student and career development programs meshed with encouragement of small business start-ups and entrepreneurship.

“Our plan is that, come the beginning of the year, probably in the week between Christmas and New Year’s, we relocate,” Lankford said. “Our time in the Armory tested whether the incubator would be well-received and we could use it as a learning lab for students. We found it does work, and now we definitely want to expand.”

The incubator is intended to get new businesses off the ground by providing space and general office equipment, along with internet connections and other essentials. Two businesses — John Bowling Insurance and Marietta and Beyond digital magazine — are operating out of the Epicenter right now, Lankford said, and other professionals and students are occasional users of the space.

This year, the Epicenter has given assistance to 40 businesses and individuals, including space, equipment, advice and management assistance.

The Epicenter also offers opportunities for entrepreneurs to interact with students, both high school and college, through job-shadowing and internships, she said.

The new quarters will offer another option: makerspace, which is simply an area where people can make things, from woodwork to fiber arts. Lankford said the Epicenter has acquired some equipment, including woodworking tools and a 3D printer, but it’s also launched an online survey to see what the community wants for the space. So far, the Epicenter online survey has been completed by 40 people, she said, and the survey is still available for those who would like to influence the center’s future offerings. Fiber arts, she said, is one area that is generating significant interest.

She said the Epicenter also will be looking for a coordinator to oversee the makerspace.

Christiane Marshall, publisher of Marietta and Beyond magazine, said she started the digital publication from her home in Caldwell after retiring from a teaching career.

“I just needed to be in a different kind of environment,” she said. “I like it here, it’s very collegial, and I’m looking forward to the move.”

Marshall also uses the facility to teach English to students in China through Skype, something that would have been impossible at her home because she relies on satellite dish for her internet connection.

“I think there’s a lot here for the community that people apparently aren’t aware of,” she said.

Tasha Werry, director of BB2C, said the agency hopes more in the community will embrace the Epicenter.

“With the makerspace, we’re basically saying, ‘Come and use our equipment, collaborate, take lessons,'” she said.

David Tenney, whose company Old Mill, Ltd., owns the Lancaster Street property, said he’s happy with the arrangement.

“I am pleased that BB2C is expanding into my commercial property on Lancaster Street. The property is ideally suited and ready to support the mission of their growing organization,” he said in an email. “They are not only a welcome addition to the property but to the Historic Harmar Village of Marietta.”

Lankford has been director of the Epicenter since it started in January, and she said she’s got 27 years of small business development experience.

“This is a great opportunity to add more incubators, and the student part of this makes it unique,” she said.

Anyone who needs help with a business start-up or entrepreneurial advice can contact the Epicenter at 740-370-6399. Students interested in job shadowing or internships are welcome to call, and the center is still taking suggestions on ways to outfit the makerspace.

Lankford noted that the agency is in the midst of a fundraising campaign, and any donations up to a total of $15,000 will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Marietta Community Foundation.

At a glance

Building Bridges to Careers (BB2C) Epicenter

¯ Has occupied 1,200 square feet of space in the Armory since January.

¯ Planning to move to the Tenney and Associates building on Lancaster Street at the beginning of 2018, doubling its floor area and offering makerspace as well as closed office areas.

¯ Offering for entrepreneurs, business start-up and craftspeople: Office space, office equipment, connectivity, some specialized tools for woodworking, 3D printing, and possibly other craft and artisan equipment.

¯ Taking survey to determine what the community wants: buildingbridgestocareers.org/epicenter (makerspace survey at bottom of the page)