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Clarkson applies for Innovation Hot Spot grant

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POTSDAM — Clarkson University is waiting to see if it will be named an “Innovation Hot Spot,” a state-appointed title that comes with $250,000 to spread the reach of the college’s startup support services and kick-start small businesses across the region.

The college’s Shipley Center for Innovation and Reh Center for Entrepreneurship applied for the grant this week as part of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council’s pitch for competitive state funding.

Both centers operate out of the college to provide advice, training and resources to help students and community members start their own businesses.

The college would use the hot spot funding to look all across the region for potential business startups, rather than waiting for the ideas to come to Potsdam.

“It would allow us to expand our model across the north country,” said Matthew E. Draper, deputy director of the Shipley Center.

A portion of the funds would be used to create a new full-time position at the center. This person would spend one day a week in five communities — Plattsburgh, Watertown, Massena, Ogdensburg and Saranac Lake — to solicit ideas from prospective entrepreneurs and provide advice.

“They would capture the ideas there and bring them back here, and we would do the vetting,” Mr. Draper said.

Ideas deemed worthwhile would be eligible for funds and other assistance from the center.

Although Clarkson would spearhead the effort, the application is a collaboration among 10 partners, including area colleges and nonprofits.

Most of the grant would be used to provide small amounts of startup money, from $1,500 to $2,000, for regional businesses looking for the cash they need to get off the ground.

“We want them to spend it in their hometowns,” Mr. Draper said.

The Innovation Hot Spot grant was announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo earlier this year. Up to five business incubators in New York state will be chosen for the award.

The initiative is designed to encourage more private research and venture capital spending in New York, which lags far behind states such as California and North Carolina.

According to Mr. Draper, Clarkson’s focus on reaching out into the region, rather than pouring its resources into one central location, will set it apart from all the other incubators hoping to be named a hot spot by the state.

“Traditionally, a lot of people have followed the ‘if you build it they will come’ approach and build a lot of shiny new incubators,” he said.

The state is expected to make its decision in December.

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