Autry Technology Center and the James W. Strate Center for Business Devel-opment represent a “hand-in-glove” operation, according to Jim Strate, Autry superintendent.

“It’s a logical location for the center because of the supplemental programs Autry provides,” Strate said. He’s referring to Dale Shaffer, who teaches small business classes; Ron Duggins, director of the center; and Terry Henneke, Autry’s bid assistance coordinator.

The location of the center also will provide Autry’s students the opportunity to see firsthand what it’s like to start a small business.

Strate said it’s not an easy decision to begin a business, but the incubator will provide support for starting companies.

Molly Helm, Autry director of communications and marketing, compared it to a student going off to college.

“If you live by yourself and don’t have anyone to help you, that’s a lot harder than if you live in the dorms and can go to your neighbors for help,” she said.

Networking, Helm and Strate agree, will be a major benefit for businesses blossoming at the incubator.

“We expect a lot of interaction as the office spaces fill up,” Helm said.

Currently, Cara Evans, of Custom Land Management LLC, is the sole client to be housed in the center, but other businesses are completing the application process.

Office space in the center is customizable, so the exact number of businesses that potentially could find homes in the center varies. But once the word gets out, Helm said she expects there will be clients waiting to enroll.

A constant monitoring process and a structured rent plan are geared toward getting businesses developed and moved into the community within three years, Strate said.

“We can home-grow our own businesses,” he said.

While Enid and the surrounding area will benefit from new businesses developing in the center, Strate said they also depend on the community for referrals.

People who are unsure if their businesses would qualify, Helm said, should contact Duggins at 242-2750.

“There are no preconceived notions,” she said. “The sky’s the limit.”

The only restrictions are no direct retail businesses or restaurants. Interested people have to provide a written business plan and a market-ready product or service.

The center officially will open 11 a.m. Friday with tours and an open house. Ribbon cutting is slated for 11:30 a.m.

The opening is the result of four years’ worth of planning.

“We’re very excited to see it come together,” Strate said. “It’s nice to see it become a reality.”

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