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North country Innovation Hot Spot plans to launch 50 startups in 2014


POTSDAM — Clarkson University’s Shipley Center for Innovation has been named one of five state “Innovation Hot Spots,” earning $250,000 to help launch 50 startups from across the north country in 2014.

About $70,000 of this money will pay the salary and benefits of a new full-time employee who will travel around the region to solicit ideas from prospective entrepreneurs and provide advice on how to make their businesses a reality. The best ideas will receive financial support and access to the resources at the Shipley Center.

The center plans to fund businesses that fit into one of two categories. The first is the traditional high-tech startups — companies with new ideas and the potential to turn a large profit.

“It’s something you’ve never heard of; it’s meant to put a dent in the universe,” said Matthew E. Draper, deputy director of the Shipley Center.

Social networks, medical devices and clean technology are all examples of ideas the center hopes to gather for the first category.

The second category covers businesses that would improve the qualify of life in their communities, such as local food initiatives or improved health care.

Both categories fulfill the hot spots mission of boosting the local economy, according to Mr. Draper.

“We don’t want to turn a blind eye to category two, because that can have just as much benefit,” he said.

The center will set aside $135,000 of the state funds it receives to provide loans to help get businesses off the ground.

It plans to launch 50 businesses in its first year, in Watertown, Plattsburgh, Saranac Lake, Potsdam, Canton, Ogdensburg and Massena.

“The idea is that they’ll spend that money in their local communities,” Mr. Draper said.

Those businesses that are able to successfully get off the ground will be eligible for the Start-Up NY program, a state initiative that allows companies to operate completely tax-free for a period.

The hot spot program is designed to funnel successful ideas into Start-Up NY, Mr. Draper said.

Nobody knows when the center will receive the money or begin its search for the employee, but specifics should be made clear within the next few weeks, he said.

He attributed the hot spot proposal’s success to its focus on a regionwide initiative, rather than a central location. While a single location may make sense for densely populated urban areas, the size of the north country made comprehensive outreach a must.

“I think it was leveraging the existing pockets of greatness,” he said. “It was truly a regionwide plan.

While the Shipley Center will take the helm, it is partnered with 10 other north country institutions to make the hot spot a reality.

“We’re looking to service people where they need service,” Mr. Draper said.

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