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A Hot Spot for Dramatic Business Growth

i518 Associate Director Maria Pidgeon stands outside her office in the Massry Center for Business. (Photo by Paul Miller)

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 22, 2016) — Having served as a senior economic developer for the City of Albany and a director at the College of St. Rose promoting entrepreneurship through academic-business collaboration, Maria Pidgeon feels at home in a new UAlbany-led program designed to forge economic development in the Capital Region.

Pidgeon is the associate director of Innovate 518 (i518), a New York State-designated “Innovation Hot Spot” that aims to help small technology-based Capital Region businesses with solid growth potential get off the ground. The program does so by providing access to incubators that offer mentorship, business services and strategies for obtaining new capital.

“Through work on the Empire Zones Program and other economic development initiatives, I’ve seen the power of mentorship for small businesses,” said Pidgeon. “And as a past director of internships and field studies at the College of St. Rose, I’ve seen how higher education can work with business to improve the overall economic climate of our region.”

The University is partnering with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and the Center for Economic Growth (CEG) on i518 to promote economic development and foster a climate of innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the Capital Region. They are currently working together on choosing the hot spot locations for the region.

“The goal of the program is to help facilitate targeted client start-up teams by connecting them to resources that help with their business models, discover and validate customers, bolster operational capabilities, and pursue capital,” said Pidgeon.

“In addition to leveraging local networks for access to mentorship, business services, and capital, i518 will seek out potential markets and investment opportunities from outside the region for local startups,” said Pidgeon.

i518 will also support student entrepreneur opportunities in turning ideas into business, building upon several already created UAlbany initiatives and programs. These include Blackstone LaunchPad, entrepreneurship concentration in the School of Business, a student venture fund through The RNA Institute, and intended makers-space in the new College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“With i518, I can fully leverage both of my previous work experiences,” said Pidgeon. “I get to work with the region’s new entrepreneurs and I get to work closely with faculty, as I did at St. Rose, particularly in offering applied learning opportunities for students. So, a company that may have a need for a marketing student to develop a brand/marketing campaign, will work with us as we coordinate with faculty to create either a class project or an internship opportunity for that student.”

In 2014, UAlbany was awarded $250,000 per year from Empire State Development for three years to develop i518 from Empire State Development. Three local companies are now working with i518 incubators, with several others now in the process of obtaining certification.

“i518 is designed to support companies starting and developing in certified incubators. A company in New York then has additional options such as applying for START-UP NY once they are at a point in their development where they can predict and quantify future job growth,” said Pidgeon.

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