(MANHATTAN, Kan. – April 26, 2023) — The Kansas Department of Commerce has announced that the City of Manhattan will be a recipient of a $1.5 million Building a Stronger Economy (BASE) Grant for buildout of “The Garage” Entrepreneur and Innovation Center.
The Garage, which will occupy a portion of the undeveloped first-floor shell space in the City-owned Aggieville parking structure, will serve as an entrepreneurial hub that has been identified as a priority from the business community since 2018.
“Dedicated space like this, in a vibrant and walkable district such as Aggieville, is a premier spot for entrepreneurial programming of new businesses in the Manhattan region,” said Mayor Mark Hatesohl.
The City intends to work with K-State Innovation Partners to finish, occupy, and facilitate the space.
“Entrepreneurs and innovation are the foundation of economic prosperity,” said Rebecca Robinson, president and CEO for K-State Innovation Partners. “With this funding, The Garage will be central to the region’s efforts to start and advance exciting, innovative new businesses which will grow our economy.”
The Garage is another tool in expanding startup capacity in the region, according to Jason Smith, president and CEO of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce. The community’s economic development partners already support efforts such as a Small Business Development Center office, Spark MHK, and small business loan funds. However, having a central point to consolidate these efforts should bring better results.
“One of the biggest complaints we hear from small businesses and those wishing to start a business is a lack of awareness of what’s available, both in terms of capital and technical assistance,” Smith said. “This is a unique opportunity to bring significant resources into a central location and create better awareness and service delivery.
“Manhattan truly is a community that relies on small business and entrepreneurship for economic prosperity, which is why we have made it a significant priority of our economic development efforts. We couldn’t be more pleased with this grant announcement and look forward to continuing the work to facilitate the completion of the new space.”
The idea for an entrepreneurial center came out of the Chamber’s 2018 Region Reimagined strategy. This economic development process led to the identification of a K-State-affiliated “center of gravity,” offering support mechanisms to assess, coach, and fund entrepreneurial growth as a key strategy for the expansion of entrepreneurial endeavors.
The Chamber of Commerce then led a planning effort and task force that identified the new parking garage in Aggieville as a potential site for this project.
In addition, throughout the Aggieville Community Vision discussions and design of the parking garage, community and district feedback has been consistent to pursue usage of the first-floor space that would complement — and not compete with — existing Aggieville businesses, bringing additional visitors into the district daily.
City officials and collaborators, such as the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce and K-State Innovation Partners, are working to finalize details regarding the facility and will have a discussion with the City Commission soon as the project progresses.