University-Affiliated High-Tech Business Incubators

January 1989 / Abell Reports / Community Development, Workforce Development

An idea for creating jobs, reducing failure, strengthening Maryland’s economy.

The heart of a community beats to the rhythm of paydays. Its character is linked to how much money citizens have for basics — food, clothing and shelter; how much is left to support institutions (schools, hospitals, museums); how much for amenities (symphonies, parks, parades). When employment is down, the heartbeat grows faint; when employ­ment is up, the beat is strong. Jobs are the adrenaline.

Jobs are why jurisdictions race to attract new businesses; jobs are the main reason they invest in tourism, edu­cation, and economic development. One of the job-creating ideas attracting grow­ing attention — around the country and around the world — is the business incuba­tor. Relatively new in the economy, the oldest in the country has been in operation only 25 years, and most of the roughly 300 incubators in business today are less than five years old. They are currently operating in 40 states.

What accounts for this historic growth? Why the intense interest in incubators? Are they successful, and by what criteria? Where does Maryland stand in establishing incubators, and does the idea hold promise of creating jobs and of contributing to the economic well-being of the state?