The city of Belfast is seeking input from entrepreneurs, individuals and groups looking to start a business, as part of the process for developing a potential business incubator.

Business incubation is a support process that helps up-and-coming businesses develop by offering specific services and resources. Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge said an incubator can be a shared building where individuals have access to rental space, equipment and technology.

In order to gauge the demand for such space, and to determine what types of services start-up business owners would be looking for, Kittredge created a survey asking questions that range from how interested an individual or group would be in an incubator to where they feel would be the best location for an incubator.

“We’re just in an information-gathering phase at this point,” Kittredge said.

Because the first phase of the proposal is focused on gathering information, Kittredge said, the city has not devoted any money to building an incubator. While there is a possibility to do so in the future, Kittredge noted that the city does not own any buildings where the incubator could be located.

For that reason, Kittredge said, the city could look for a private entity to construct the building.

The idea to investigate the potential for a business incubator came about as a result of City Council discussions prior to Kittredge's being hired by the city, he said. Some councilors believed there would be high demand for a building with a shared loading dock.

Kittredge noted that former Gov. Angus King’s administration pushed for business incubators across the state. Some of those incubators include the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development at the University of Southern Maine and The Target Technology Incubator at the University of Maine.

So far, the city has received about 20 responses to the survey, but Kittredge said not as many of the responses as he would like have come from entrepreneurs. The city set a deadline of Feb. 11 to submit responses to the survey.

Following the February deadline, Kittredge said, he will begin reading the responses to the survey, compile the information and then present it to the City Council. At that time, he said, the Council may ask for more information, or the process of developing a business incubator plan could begin.

“This is not a project to be taken lightly,” Kittredge said.

Copies of the survey can be requested from Kittredge at 338-3370, ext. 16, or by email at economicdevelopment@cityofbelfast.org. The survey can also be downloaded at cityofbelfast.org/incubator. All responses should be returned to City Hall.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.