Are Small Business Incubators the Future?

iStock_000021656315XSmallI’ve been to Las Vegas once in my life. A group of friends and I made the trip in November 2009 to celebrate a close friend’s bachelor party. Yes, we had a good time. No, it wasn’t anything like the cliché “Vegas baby Vegas,” experience we’ve come to expect thanks to Hollywood.

Either way, the Vegas strip is an incredible spectacle. People are everywhere. Buildings stretch to the sky like a stack of chips on a heater. Roller coasters weave and duck right above the sidewalks and you can eat your weight at any of the mile-long buffets.

Think about the image you have of Las Vegas. Casinos, hotels, money, expensive food and live shows. Doesn’t exactly describe a mecca or hub for entrepreneurs and small business owners working to establish their product in a city overrun with people in search of nothing but brand names, or who are even aware Las Vegas exists beyond the four-mile-long strip.

As much as the casinos and hotel feed the city’s economy, most people on the strip are not citizens. They are tourists in town for two to five days and then gone faster than Lady Luck at the craps or blackjack table. Local businesses aren’t making money off tourists. They have to appeal to the citizens of Las Vegas in a location that appeals specifically to them. That’s why I found this recent story so fascinating.

Right now, in the heart of Sin City, there is a new building project going up that hopes to house a number of local businesses. The project, called “The Downtown Container Park,” is a described “incubator for small businesses, and a place for locals to hang out.”

Composed of re-purposed shipping containers, the park is supposed to have 35 containers and many more “modular cubes,” to be the future home of small businesses from around the city.

Doug McPhail, manager of the project, told NPR, “We’re gonna have ladies’ fashion. We’re gonna have small eateries. We’re gonna have bike shop — we believe we’ll have a bike shop. We’ll have art inside the containers.”

In addition to the hopefully dozens of small businesses, the park will also have an actual park for kids and adults to enjoy, as well as an area for local bands to perform. Like many major cities around the country, this appears to be an attempt to revitalize parts of Las Vegas most tourists don’t touch. A place for the community to rally and connect with one another.

Is this the future of small business success, especially in large cities? Carved out ecosystems with the sole purpose of housing local businesses to only appeal to a large number of people at once, but also to offer citizens with a unique environment focused on community.

It’s happening in other forms too. There are already food trailer parks popping up around the country. From here in Austin, Texas to Portland, Oregon, Chicago, Illinois and Brooklyn, New York, the idea of personalizing communities is as strong as ever. Neighborhoods are continuously breaking down walls and almost receding to a time period where community was of the utmost importance and everyone knew everybody else.

A similar project or community of shipping containers turned businesses sprung up in Cholula City, Mexico, a small town outside of Mexico City. There, the people have a small community of restaurants, art galleries, bars and novelty stores, all inside brightly colored, recycled shipping containers.

So what do you think of these types of hubs or hangouts for local businesses? Is it easier to support local businesses when they are together in one location and offer additional services like a park or location to hear live music with family and friends?

Local restaurants and shops aren’t going anytime soon. And with places like “The Downtown Container Park,” it may get easier to spread the word about your brand.

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