As HCDC, Inc.
prepares for its annual meeting and awards ceremony on Jan. 15, leaders at the former Hamilton County Development Company reflect on the year since announcing a name change
to project a single identity for the three major services they offer. They’ve had a strong 2015 in all three sectors.
Norwood-based HCDC assists businesses opening or working in Cincinnati’s core and suburbs, but its efforts extend beyond Hamilton County across Southwest Ohio, Southeast Indiana and Northern Kentucky. It’s one of the oldest and largest engines in the tristate area for SBA lending, small business incubation and economic development.
Talking about these three major programs, HCDC President David Main chuckles.
“It’s like having three more children,” he says. “I’m asked which is my favorite, and I have to say, ‘It depends.’”
Small business lending
HCDC administers Small Business Association 504 and Ohio 166 loans. While the lending program took a hit several years ago because of the 2008 recession, it’s now back in full swing. This year the organization loaned approximately $26 million to area projects.
The organization is among the biggest SBA lenders in Southwest Ohio
. Main estimates that they’re also probably one of the largest commercial real estate lenders in Over-the-Rhine, with borrowers like the Woodward Theatre, MOTR Pub and Gray & Pape Cultural Resource Consultants.
HCDC has been a small business incubator since “before it was cool,” Main says. In the 1980s, when manufacturing jobs were leaving the area, HCDC responded with assistance.
“We thought a business incubator would be a rational response to make the core of Hamilton County a business hub,” he says.
Their incubation program includes rentable office space, access to capital, workshops, mentoring and networking with other entrepreneurs. HCDC also rents CoWorks office space to entrepreneurs and individuals in the very early stages of their businesses. The workspace itself has proven inspiring as entrepreneurs support each other in a startup-friendly atmosphere.
“We are an environment that’s conducive to risk-taking and entrepreneurial thinking,” Main says. “Being in an incubator, they’re with other entrepreneurs who have faced, wrestled with and solved similar problems.”
HCDC’s incubation space is currently over 80 percent full, housing more than 40 startup businesses
. Main is happy about his full office and parking lot, but he’s even happier about the tenants he loses — several businesses “graduate” from the incubation program each year and expand into their own offices.
According to Main, five companies graduated in fiscal year 2013, 10 in 2014 and 11 in 2015. Two more such graduations will happen by the end of January.
The idea is that incubation graduates stay in the Greater Cincinnati area and bring jobs and funds to the region as they grow.
Small businesses and startups aren’t the only way HCDC works to add jobs in the region. Its economic development arm works to retain businesses of all sizes and to attract new ones.
The team saw success in that endeavor this year too, as the organization partnered with Jobs Ohio and REDI to bring Illinois-based CDK Global to Norwood
and add approximately 1,000 jobs to that city and to Hamilton County. On a smaller scale, HCDC has continued its work in suburban communities, not only reaching out to new businesses but providing mentoring and assistance to those already doing business here.
As HCDC gears up for a new year and its annual meeting, Main wants to encourage small businesses, both new and existing, to take advantage of the services HCDC offers.
“We have plenty of money to lend,” he says. “We have room in the inn, and we’ll probably have more room in the inn after the first of the year when more tenants graduate into new spaces.”