The COD option
The College of DuPage Innovation Center would connect entrepreneurs with mentors and academics who guide them through business development and pitches for startup funds.
The initial thought was to build the incubator on COD's Glen Ellyn campus, but as plans for Innovation DuPage took shape, school officials said they would prefer to operate in a downtown setting with access to a Metra station.
"It also signals to the community it's not just an academic venture," said Joseph Cassidy, COD's dean of continuing education. "When you take it out of the academic campus and you have partners from public and private sources, it signals in a very real way that this is not the entity of one academic institution. That matters."
Those partners include Choose DuPage, an economic development alliance; Naperville-based Rev3 Innovation Center, one of the pioneers of co-working in the suburbs; DuPage Impact LLC, an angel investor group; Benedictine University in Lisle; and Elmhurst College.
"The reason they don't put it on their campus is because they would never get Benedictine or Elmhurst College to participate if it was branded as a COD project," Trustee Mark Senak said. "So you move it out of the COD sphere. You put it on a neutral site."
The college also wants to move the Center for Entrepreneurship from a "nondescript" office building off Cabot Drive in Lisle to the northeast corner of the Civic Center's second floor.
Village trustees will review a draft license agreement with the college at their Nov. 13 workshop. If the deal is approved, officials could seek bids for the Civic Center renovations in January and Innovation DuPage could open by as early as September 2018, Cassidy said.
It's important to move quickly, he said, because similar incubators are planned at Harper College and near O'Hare International Airport.
"There are going to be benefits to whoever comes in the Western suburbs in a real way with the right partners," he said.
But Trustee Pete Ladesic says the village should "slow down the conversation" and vet other options.
"I still question the use of this building for a quasi-private purpose and I think it meets the mission statement more of an institute of higher education that it does the village," Ladesic said.
He and Trustee Gary Fasules question whether the center would boost economic development around town.
"If we think that someone is going to develop a company, go in and rent space, stay in Glen Ellyn -- there's too many unknowns in that," Fasules said.