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Editorial: Will Idea Center create needed innovation?

In August 2017, the Rowan County Board of commissioners were approached with a proposal that would create an “idea center” at West End Plaza.

The project was a departure from the vision commissioners expressed when purchasing the former mall, but the project would liven up the facility in a way other tenants had not.

The Idea Center would include a business incubator, co-working space, a spot for companies to create prototypes, a cafe and a digital media lab for Catawba College’s communications program.

Once created, the center would be an end-to-end solution to bring entrepreneurship to the forefront in Rowan County, said then-Catawba College Business School Dean Jay Abraham.

One year and several months later, that dream remains unfulfilled while the need remains. Jobs are more plentiful 2017, but you’ll find unanimous agreement that innovation, whether or not it creates additional jobs, is good for our local economy. While chasing down business prospects with dozens or hundreds of jobs, we should also aim to grow our own, with the moonshot dream of building more Salisbury native businesses such as Food Lion, which employs an estimated 3,500 people, according to the Rowan County Economic Development Commission.

Is the Idea Center the means by which we can generate excitement around entrepreneurship? Perhaps.

With the right ingredients, a business incubator and co-working space, two of the components of the Idea Center, will allow entrepreneurs to share and mold their business ideas on a daily basis.

But giving it $125,000, each, from the city and county government — a request the Idea Center made public Tuesday — won’t be the only solution. And an investment of government dollars will be most effective when there’s a critical mass of local businesses willing to pitch in their support for new entrepreneurs from East Spencer to Kannapolis, starting up a business is easy and there’s an incentives to do so in our community as opposed to elsewhere.

Suffice to say, there’s more work to do in Rowan County and its nine municipalities.

As the Salisbury City Council and Rowan County Board of Commissioners discuss whether to fund the request, we hope they consider what other steps must be taken to, as Abraham said, bring entrepreneurship to the forefront in Rowan County.

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