Chicago has roughly 55 "innovation hubs" where startups can get business services and support, but the rest of northern Illinois is home to only two such business incubation facilities.
Come Monday, the score will be Chicago, 55, suburbs and Northern Illinois, 3, as the first members of Rev3 Innovation Center start moving into a new space in Naperville.
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Rev3 will offer manufacturing and prototyping technology as well as shared and private office space for entrepreneurs, said Nic Zito, business services director for Choose DuPage and project manager of the new innovation center.
"It's exciting to be working with these people and slowly getting them moved in," Zito said.
Choose DuPage is launching the initiative, which soon will be organized as a separate nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting innovators and supporting small business growth in the county.
"The success of this innovation center will have a lasting impact on DuPage County by tapping into the diverse business community already located here," especially with major companies in the technology, manufacturing, retail, logistics and health care fields, said Greg Bedalov, president and CEO of Choose DuPage.
Early Rev3 members include a man who develops 3-D models of human body parts to assist doctors in preparing for surgeries, an innovator who is creating 3-D models of board game parts in hopes of developing a prototype that can be mass-produced, and two people who do software development and coding on the website platform WordPress, including Mike Hale of Warrenville.
Hale hosted the first gathering at Rev3 last week, of a meetup group called WordPress Naperville. Members came from Villa Park, Aurora, St. Charles and Plano for the gathering to discuss best practices for designing and managing sites on the platform.
"It's nice to have something local," Hale said about the new innovation center. "It's nice to be around other people doing the same thing without having to travel an hour."
Innovators who want to be Rev3 members will pay between $200 and $1,000 a month for different sizes and configurations of offices along with access to Rev3's more technical facilities, including a wood and metal shop, a prototyping lab, a digital media studio, a classroom and a teleconferencing room. The wood and metal shop, prototyping lab, and media studio require some build out under the direction of Heitman Architects of Itasca and likely will be finished by early next year, Zito said.
All of the areas occupy 10,000 square feet on the first floor of the Northern Illinois University Naperville Conference Center at 1120 E. Diehl Road. Recognizing the importance of developing a startup culture in the suburbs, Zito said NIU gave Rev3 the space for free.
"A lot of incubators end up in university settings," Zito said. "It's a good synergy."
Unlike university-sponsored incubators, however, Rev3 is public and not designed for students. "Corporate-types" who have worked in the tech corridor along I-88 and now want to launch their own business are who Rev3 is targeting.
"We're encouraging and fostering entrepreneurship within DuPage County," Zito said.
A co-working space, a 4,000-square-foot open-plan area where Rev3 members can come when they need a desk or a place to host a meeting, will be one of the first amenities available when the innovation center opens Monday. Located off the main lobby of the campus building, the co-working space also will be available to NIU students, faculty members and people attending conferences at the convention center.
"The biggest and most important thing," Zito said, "is driving that collaboration."