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OMIC and Columbia Economic Team plan to partner to offer business and manufacturing guidance in incubator.

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - OMIC R&D Executive Director Craig Campbell speaks to attendees at a tour of the facility in 2019.As OMIC R&D's second building nears completion, leaders are already planning a new program that could develop in a third building.

Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center Executive Director Craig Campbell and Columbia Economic Team Executive Director Paul Vogel are pursuing funding for a business incubator program, which would focus on businesses in additive manufacturing.

OMIC Research and Design's first building is where researchers develop manufacturing processes to help the OMIC's business members, which include Boeing and Daimler Trucks.

The second building, which is currently under construction, will focus on additive manufacturing techniques like 3D printing.

A third building will provide space for growing businesses to develop additive manufacturing processes for their own businesses.PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Columbia Economic Team Executive Director Paul Vogel speaks at an event covering the challenges small businesses face and the role of the Small Business Development Center in 2022.

The Columbia County Small Business Resource and Development Center, housed under the umbrella of the Columbia Economic Team, hired its first director earlier this year.

"We always knew that at some point in time, we would need to have incubation period capability here at OMIC," Campbell said. "A lot of times, those who are great inventors are not always great business people. And so having a place where they can incubate where they can have access to good solid support in business practices, next steps, and also have access to the R&D capability that we have — we thought it made sense for us to try and consolidate that in one place through a business center."

Vogel said that finding a place for small manufacturers within OMIC — which has a membership that includes many large international companies — has been a challenge.

"With the establishment of the SBDC, all of a sudden, we thought, wait, we've got business consultation and advising, we've got manufacturing consultation and advising" through another partner, the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership (OMEP), Vogel said. "What if we had a space where folks could come here and really germinate and have access to the R&D, have access to those tools… sort of work their way into the R&D ecosystem?"

Businesses in the incubator would stay one to two years, and then ideally relocate to the industrial land around OMIC and Scappoose, Vogel said.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici included $814,000 for the Columbia County Advanced and Additive Manufacturing Small Business Incubator in her list of community projects to receive funding in the 2023 appropriations bill. Earlier this month, the bill passed the House with funding for the incubator — and 9 more of the 15 community projects Bonamici pushed for — intact. The Senate has yet to vote on the legislation.

The $814,000 would be used for the planning process. Campbell said there wasn't any timeline for the project yet, since he and Vogel can't solicit funding for the building construction and equipment until they have more plans and budgets to show.

"You're starting with substantial asset investment in OMIC, additional investment in the additive center, additional investment in PCC Training Center. We think those are good enough reasons to want to invest here. But if we can put it into a prospectus as to how this all aligns on paper, that's what the bean counters need," Vogel said.

OMIC's additive manufacturing building is expected to cost more than $17 million, including the expensive equipment the building will house, and will be completed in late 2022. The eventual third building may have a similar frame to the additive manufacturing building, but would likely be smaller and have less expensive equipment.

Campbell and Vogel said the incubator likely wouldn't require a significant increase in staffing for OMIC, Columbia Economic Team and the Small Business Development Center, or the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership, an additional partner in the proposed incubator.

"It will be more of a capital-intensive process than it will be an ongoing cost," Campbell said.

For small and medium-sized manufacturers, the additive manufacturing center will allow them to try new processes without making a massive investment, Campbell said.

Additive manufacturing can reduce costs, materials waste and time, but, Campbell said, "it's not a panacea, which is why we need to de-risk that investment for small and medium sized companies."

The incubator's proximity to OMIC R&D's other programs and buildings would also put small businesses shoulder-to-shoulder with large companies who "are always looking for suppliers, innovators for their own supply chain," Vogel said. "That has a great potential for accelerating product development and service development by these entrepreneurs because they're exposed to potential customers on a global scale."

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