After losing a significant amount of members when it started charging a membership fee, the Launch Box program will pull up stakes, move into the Gateway Technical College, and go back to being a free service, said Thalia Mendez, business resource specialist for the Launch Box.

Launch Box, a business development resource center and co-working space in Racine, will be moving from 141 Main St. to a space at Gateway Technical College, 1001 S. Main St., sometime this summer.

The resource center, which is managed by Gateway Technical College, had 180 members at the end of the year that used the resource center for free. But it started charging a yearly fee to non-Racine residents in the beginning of the year it. The program currently serves about 60 members, 47 percent of whom pay $300 a year for the service.

Now that it is moving to Gateway, the resources will go back to being free for everyone as of April 1 and those paying members will receive a refund. Mendez continues to reach out to about 150 members to make services available, she said.

“The conversation between the Mayor’s office and Gateway was: How can we keep this going,” she said. “The city is not going to keep funding this forever.”

The City of Racine pays about $100,000 from its intergovernmental revenue sharing fund to Gateway Technical College to manage the Launch Box, which aims to increase the number of business start-ups in the community and spur job growth.

“Long-term when the Racine Development Authority no longer support this, this ensures that Launch Box will still continue,” Mendez said.

Bryan Albrecht, president of Gateway Technical College, offered up the meeting space that its BizSquad program uses since the students involved in that program regularly work with Launch Box businesses owners to help grow their businesses. 

“It became obvious that this could be great,” Mendez said. “So we started talking about how we can keep it sustainable. This is the city’s legacy. We wanted a way to continue offering a quality co-working space that offered entrepreneurs the services they need to be successful.”

The move also means the program can cut expenses since it won’t have to pay for WiFi or a cleaning service, but members will also have access to student interns and instructors.

The move is expected to happen sometime this summer. Once available, the new space will be available from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Editor’s note: The Racine County Eye is a Launch Box member.

 

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.