Center for the Future off to a promising start at repurposed city building

It has taken nearly five years to come to fruition, but Prescott’s business-incubation project known as the Center for the Future is off to a vigorous start.

Jon Haass, professor of cyber intelligence and security at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and one of the organizers of the Center for the Future, reports that spaces are filling up fast at the office suites that are being repurposed from their previous uses by City of Prescott departments.

Currently, suites in the two-story city building at 218 S. Marina Street are already housing early start-up companies, and others are waiting in the wings.

The business-incubation concept initially got underway in 2016, when the Prescott City Council approved a letter of support for the idea.

Since then, the center’s direction has evolved, and in late 2020, the city moved ahead with a plan to allow start-up companies to occupy the offices that were being vacated as city departments relocated.

Initially, the relocation of the city offices was to be to the current City Hall building at 201 S. Cortez Street.

But those plans changed with the City Council’s recent approval of the purchase of the National Bank building on North Montezuma Street. Now, city officials say that the city departments currently housed at the Marina Street building would likely move directly into the new City Hall building on Montezuma Street (after the building purchase closes escrow).

Prescott Recreation Services Director Joe Baynes said Monday, May 24, that he expects the offices in the Marina Street building to be moved to the new City Hall within the month.

“In the next 30 days, we’ll have that top floor cleared,” Baynes said, referring to the office space at 218 S. Marina that currently houses the city’s Human Resources Department and other offices.

Haass said there would be start-up companies ready to move in as soon at the offices
are vacated by the city.

Already, the building houses tech companies SimpleWan and 360SOC (Security Operations Center) – both of which are employing recent Embry-Riddle graduates.

MORE THAN JUST OFFICE SPACE
Although providing the office space and assistance is important, Haass said it is not the main driver of the program. “The center is not just a building; it’s a concept,” he said.

As its name implies, the Center for the Future’s concept is one that looks far ahead to what Prescott could become. Since its inception about five years ago, the center’s main objective is to bring high-tech jobs to Prescott.

Ultimately, Haass said the goal is to help diversify the local economy beyond the retail and tourism jobs to include high-paying jobs in technology and cyber security. That, in turn, would make the local economy stronger, he said.

POTENTIAL GRANTS
Currently, the Center for the Future is in its first phase, which involves providing space for start-up companies in the building at 218 S. Marina Street.

The next goal would be to expand at that location, Haass said, noting that there might be space available nearby for more start-up offices.

The third goal is to construct a stand-alone building that could eventually become part of a high-tech campus. Haass said preliminary plans are being developed for either a 15,000-square-foot or a 30,000-square-foot option, depending on the needs and resources.

Although there is currently no certainty on the location or schedule, Haass said he would like to see the new Phase III building become a reality by January 2023.

Meanwhile, the Marina Street offices would serve as a funnel to help small start companies.

To help fund the project, the Center for the Future has already applied for two grants, and there are other possibilities as well.

The city’s proposed budget for the coming 2021-2022 fiscal year includes a possible $2.4 million expenditure for the Center for the Future.

Tyler Goodman, assistant to the city manager, said that amount is an estimate of what the city might contribute in the coming year toward matching grant amounts that the center might receive.

“The center is proving its value already,” Goodman said.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2034, or cbarks@prescottaz.com.

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