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Businesses welcome at new development center; Sterling Centers will open soon

Published: Friday, May 3, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, May 3, 2013 2:44 p.m. CDT
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Sterling Centers in downtown Sterling will be turned into an incubator plant.
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Doug Wiersema

STERLING – Sauk Valley entrepreneurs soon will have another outlet from which to launch their small businesses.

Sterling Centers, which is in the former Frantz Manufacturing building, has been transformed into a business development center. The new venture is in the 300 block of West Third Street, just west of County Market, on the south side of the street.

The 490,000-square-foot building will have commercial space to accommodate small retailers and 22 offices capable of build-outs to suit “mom and pop” businesses to light manufacturing and assembly lines.

The building already includes commercial and private storage.

A model office should be complete in the next 2 weeks, according to a news release issued Thursday, and building improvements should be finished by June 1.

The project was funded only with private money; no local, state or federal money or taxpayer dollars were used to remodel the building.

Officials believe the center – coupled with a focus on local, young entrepreneurs – will drive business development in the community.

“We need to construct our own vision and not wait on the inevitable to happen,” Sterling Centers General Manager Doug Wiersema said in the release. “And that’s what we have done. It’s the difference between a boomtown and a ghost town.”

Officials are open-minded and willing to work with entrepreneurs to meet their needs; they will divide and alter space and will offer free rent (with terms) to qualified businesses, as necessary.

“Bring us your business plans,” Wiersema said in the release. “We’ve had inquiries on numerous ideas, everything from a distillery or brewery to an indoor banquet facility with rooftop seating to an indoor go-kart or roller-skating rink, and just about everything in between.

“There’s no box here.”

Part of its goal, he said, is to keep young entrepreneurs at home.

“This project welcomes young people. It’s the generation that will create new opportunities,” he said. “We want to be part of the solution by providing mentoring and internships to keep our young talent at home rather than leaving town for better opportunities.”

Sterling Centers would not be the first business incubator in the city; in fact it would be the latest in a recent string of projects aimed at business development in the area.

For years, the Sterling Small Business and Technology Center, also known as the “small business incubator,” at 1741 Industrial Drive off LeFevre Road, has been a space for small businesses to get their start.

And recently, Scott Hibbard began to remodel the historic Royer home at 401 E. Second St. and the Sterling Standard building at 13 E. Fourth St., both to accommodate businesses.

The Royer home will have office space on the first floor and executive suites for overnight business stays on the second floor. The Standard building will have storefronts on the first floor and a small business incubator on the second.

But don’t call Sterling Centers an “incubator,” Wiersema said.

“We are not an incubator,” he insisted. “We might be taken as a de facto incubator, but we are more of a facilitator.”

Incubators are a place for businesses to hatch; they get off the ground and eventually fly the coop, Wiersema said. But Sterling Centers, which is much larger than the other, similar centers in town, will be a place for businesses to hatch, grow and roost, he said.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” he said.

Down to business

Need space for an existing business? Want to pitch a new business and get it off the ground?

Contact Doug Wiersema, general manager of Sterling Centers, at info@sterling-centers.com or 815-441-3916.

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