Although a small business can’t provide the quantity of local jobs and the immediate tax payoffs of a large corporation, it often brings other economic and quality-of-life benefits that the bigger firms can’t match.
For example, because many of today’s entrepreneurial efforts are technology-based or knowledge-based, they’re less likely to bring with them the environmental drawbacks of a manufacturing or industrial operation. Also, high-tech or knowledge-economy firms attract skilled, creative, professional workers – well-educated people who tend to be actively involved in their communities.
In short, one creative and committed entrepreneur can make a big difference in a comparatively small town.
Case in point: Nate Logston, co-founder of Igloo Studios – a new media design firm with offices above the local pharmacy on West Main Street. Logston, trained as an architect at Ball State University, began his professional career in 2004 with a well-known architectural firm in Richmond.
In his off hours, Logston did freelance work, using a little-known software package he had discovered while in college – called SketchUp – to create computer-generated three-dimensional drawings and models for several clients.
Logston’s use of SketchUp – pushing the capabilities of the program – soon caught the attention of officials at the company that had created the software; they offered him a job as a software trainer. Within a year, Logston had left his traditional “day job” in Richmond. He and two other young designers, both based near Los Angeles, helped develop a training curriculum and soon were crisscrossing the nation to conduct SketchUp seminars attended by thousands of architects and designers.
And then came Google.
The Internet search-engine giant, looking for a way to integrate 3-D modeling into its Google Earth mapping software, bought the @Last Software, the creators of SketchUp, and wisely kept Logston and his two California co-owners on as trainers.
“We knew this software probably better than anyone,” Logston recalls, “so we became the first certified Google SketchUp trainers.”
With Google’s muscle behind the project, Logston and his California comrades – Alex Oliver and Mike Tadros – soon found themselves busier than ever. They liked the work, largely because they were so taken by, and so involved with, the software itself. “It sounds kind of funny, I know, but we feel really passionate about SketchUp,” Logston says. “We really helped push and evangelize the application, and its success is something we’re all very proud of.”
Still, this high-tech trio could all see that the time was right to change directions, to separate from Google a little more and focus on their own company. In June 2005, they did just that, forming Igloo Studios. Google, Whirlpool and Volkswagon, are several of a growing group of clients Igloo serves from its two offices – one in the Los Angeles area, and one here in downtown Hagerstown, where Logston leads a four-person team of Web-savvy 3-D modelers.
“It’s a perfect situation for me,” Logston says. “I love the work, and I’m really comfortable here. I was born and raised here, and it’s a great place to run a company.”
Logston also appreciates the town’s entrepreneurial environment, and he’s especially grateful for the very-low-interest small-business loan he obtained from the town. The money – drawn from the town’s Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) fund – made it possible for Logston to move his budding business outside his home and into the office on West Main.
“The EDIT funds were a wonderful resource for us,” Logston says. “With that loan, we were able to buy our equipment and get going right away. We’re paying on it gradually over five years.”
Who knows? By that time, the Hagerstown office of Igloo Studios may grow by leaps and bounds.
“The overhead here is very low compared to what my partners have to pay in L.A.,” Logston says. “We’ve actually talked about moving the whole operation here.”
These are the divisions within Igloo Studios:
“Even though this project is still in its planning stages, we have a very clear vision of what we want the eco park to be,” says Jim Dinkle, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County (EDCWC). “It will be a LEED-certified site, built to be sustainable and built to attract the kinds of firms we want: high-tech and life-sciences businesses, not the smokestack type.”
A LEED-certified facility is one that meets the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system developed in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council. Those standards rate building performance in five categories of sustainability: site, materials and resources, energy and atmosphere, water-use efficiency and overall indoor environmental quality.
The first tangible step in the Hagerstown project is for the EDCWC to hire a qualified engineering firm – one that is well-versed and experienced in the LEED system – to conduct “geo-technical studies” to determine the best site for the park.
“We’ve put together an RFP (request for proposals) to find a qualified engineering firm,” Dinkle explains. (Click here for a copy of the RFP). “We’re looking for a firm that can ensure that the building site doesn’t include wetlands, and that it avoids soil-compaction issues.” He said he hopes to have the firm chosen before Labor Day and to have determined the proper site for the park’s construction before the end of the year.
The ultimate vision for the eco park, Dinkle says, is for it to be a privately developed and owned site on a lot of between 100 and 120 acres – large enough to accommodate six to eight small to medium-sized businesses.
Officials hope to have the park built and occupied by at least one tenant before the spring of 2010 – less then three years after Hagerstown officials first approached the EDCWC with the idea of developing that type of eco-friendly facility in the area.
Dinkle says the eco park “will truly be a first-of-its-kind industrial park for Indiana” adding that, by developing the site quickly, “Hagerstown and Wayne County should be way out in front” of other Indiana communities. Though he acknowledges that the timeline for the park is ambitious, Dinkle and local leaders are convinced that the time for this type of progressive project is now – and that Hagerstown is the place.
“Green, sustainable development isn’t something that’s off in the future; it’s here today,” he says. “New businesses want to locate in facilities that are green and energy-efficient – places that promote stewardship of the environment.”
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“There’s lot of buzz about this around town, and it’s going to be a great day – a one-of-a-kind event,” says Denny Burns, a local business owner who is leading a massive organizing effort for the party, scheduled for July 22. That midsummer Tuesday will be Hagerstown’s big day in a weeklong festival that is being billed as “the party of the century for the car of the century.”
From 9 that morning until early afternoon, as many as 500 Model Ts are expected to roll into Hagerstown, parking along Main Street and several other downtown thoroughfares. Visitors can expect to see any number of rare and unique variations – from the classic Tin Lizzie (first built in 1908) to ambulances, campers, delivery wagons and trucks manufactured around 1917, to a sporty roadster built in 1927 – the last year of production for the “T.”
In addition to ogling the historic autos owned by others, visiting Model T mavens can enjoy lunch at local restaurants, search for bargains in downtown shops and tour historic homes owned by the Teetor family. They can also golf at Hartley Hills Country Club or visit the Ruth Dutro Community Pool.
In the afternoon, the action shifts south of town to the Hagerstown Airport (view air field) where fair-type food and old-time jazz and oldies music will create the perfect setting for a summer evening of aerial acrobatics. Approximately 50 vintage aircraft – including World War I fighters, pre-1930 planes, and stunt biplanes – will take wing that afternoon and evening, flown by the pilots who helped make the 2006 movie Flyboys.
According to Burns, these modern-day air aces are thrilled by the prospect of using the Hagerstown Airport’s 4,000-foot grass-strip runway. “They told me that our airport is the longest, flattest, smoothest grass runway in the United States,” Burns said.
A shuttle service will be in operation between 8:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. to transport visitors between the airport and the downtown area.
Hagerstown’s July 22 celebration represents just one day in a six-day Model T Ford Centennial Party that begins July 21 and encompasses several Wayne County venues. The party is being sponsored nationally by the Ford Motor Co., and the Centerville-based Model T Ford Club of America (MTFCA) is serving as host at the main celebration site, the Wayne County Fairgrounds and Exposition Center in Richmond.
Highlights of the event include a judged Model T show, driving and challenge games, a swap meet, a series of Model T road tours along the Old National Road, a vintage baseball game, a visit to Centerville’s recently opened Model T Ford Museum, special displays of antique camping, a period clothing store, vintage fashion shows, hand-churned ice cream and a giant birthday cake.
More than 1,000 vintage Model Ts are expected to make the journey to Wayne County, some from as far away as Australia, Great Britain and Norway. These cars – just a fraction of the 15 million Model Ts that Ford built between 1908 and 1927 – will be the largest gathering of Tin Lizzies since they left the factory
More information about the Model T Ford Centennial Party – as well as a wealth of information about America’s favorite automobile – is available at a special party page on the MTFCA Web site.
Now that school’s out, most families are looking for outdoor activities that can their keep their kids’ attention – and keep the Xbox controls out of idle hands for at least a few hours.
We have the answer. Actually, two answers – two great locations for family-friendly summer fun: Ruth Dutro Community Pool and Hagerstown Park.
Dutro Pool, at 611 E. Main Street, is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday (weather permitting). With reasonable fees (see chart below) and plenty of space to splash or sunbathe, the pool is the perfect antidote for the summertime blues.
You can even rent the facility for private parties between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. Call ahead at 765.489.5048 to schedule your event. Cost is just $95 for two hours.
Another hotbed for warm-weather fun is the park, west of downtown at 15940 Turnpike Road. It’s the site for local Little League baseball and girls’ softball games, and for numerous special events throughout the season. Park shelters can be reserved for picnics and family reunions by calling Hagerstown Town Hall at 765.489.6171.
For more information on Hagerstown Park and its facilities, call 765.489.4060.