"Getting the ‘Innovation’ Band Back Together "
Dennis Dreher has been a part of the process to create a makerspace and business incubator for Grants Pass since the early inception of the idea first resulted in plans to create the Rogue Innovation Hub (RIH). “Dennis has been through every single part of it,” said Cat Bonney, executive director of Common Connections. The local nonprofit was tapped to lead the continued development of the RIH after Rogue Community College withdrew from furthering the program under their umbrella. Now, Common Connections will lead the charge with Dreher and Bonney coordinating the efforts.“I fully believe in this project and I fully support it,” said Bonney. “The ideas are there and they’re still viable,” said Dreher.
Common Connections was established in 2016 “to respond to community needs,” said Bonney. Current efforts of the organization include development of a construction pre-apprenticeship program, a rental resources collaborative program, and a pending contract to facilitate the Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Program for Josephine County. Dreher serves on the Common Connections board of directors and will serve as the new project coordinator for the RIH. “We looked at it historically and we looked at what we want to do,” said Dreher.
“There’s a person who handles keeping everyone’s feet to the fire, and he’s [Dreher] been that person,” said Bonney. Picking up where others left off isn’t always easy, but Dreher has a plan to move forward with a two-fold program he says will serve as both a makerspace and business incubator for the community to assist prospective entrepreneurs with developing their ideas.“Our next step is to begin to launch,” Dreher said. The makerspace is envisioned to be a shared space that will provide facilities and tools “that can be useful to a lot of different end uses,” he said. Some proposed aspects of the space include woodworking materials, metal shop, certified kitchen, light machinery, and tools for light manufacturing. “It will be a place where people can collaborate and work together,” said Dreher. The idea is to provide entrepreneurs a means to produce a product or design with less startup cost requirements, while also providing access to collaborative effort. “There will be no need to buy tools and machines, but also they’ll have access to other craftspeople who can serve as a sounding board,” Dreher said.“The board of directors and members will find the facilities or acquire tools deemed to be of value to the users and potential users of the space,” he said.The business incubator will help already viable businesses to reach their full potential. The goal will be to introduce businesses to additional resources, such as collaborators and venture capitalists, said Bonney.
“It will be a lab space for existing businesses,” she said.Common Connections is currently looking into the pursuit of grant funding for the program through both federal and local sources. “You need some funding to be on the map,” said Dreher. “There is funding available at each different step. It’s about making sure you have a really strong plan moving forward,” said Bonney. Moving forward means calling on those people who first worked together to envision the program to reorganize and continue to develop the plan, Dreher said. “Collaborations are the important thing,” he said. “We’re really at the beginning parts of this. We have a basis of where to go, but the plan isn’t fully formed yet,” said Bonney.“The next step is that of reunion – as it were – to get the band back together,” said Dreher. ~ GPNOW, November 2020, by Steven Sable [firstname.lastname@example.org]