Northern State University opens Innovation and Startup Center

The overall goal is to advance startups, particularly in technology, within a rural area.
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 4:02 PM CST
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Northern State University set out with a goal to bring more tech entrepreneurship to northeast South Dakota. The first step in completing that goal was opening an Innovation and Startup Center on campus.

The project has been in the works for eighteen months. NSU collaborated with the Aberdeen Development Corporation and the Center on Rural Innovation to assess what the needs in the community were.

“Aberdeen does entrepreneurship really well. The gap that we’re missing is the tech piece. What’s interesting is that tech is everywhere, it’s in every job. Tech is in agriculture, it’s in hospitals, it’s in banks, it’s in education and that’s the piece that we’re missing and that will really help diversify our economy and create better jobs for our young people,” said NSU Associate Marketing Professor Hannah Walters.

The total project cost $1.5 million, and CORI helped Northern State secure a $750,000 Venture Challenge grant from the Economic Development Administration Build to Scale program. The other half of the project cost will come from local matching. Recently, NSU received a $100,000 grant from the Knight Foundation’s Aberdeen fund as part of that local matching.

The center will offer resources such as workshops, programs and camps that will help local entrepreneurs jumpstart their ideas.

“The design is to create new jobs by taking ideas that people have and we can move them from the idea stage actually into a real, functioning business and help people learn to monetize their idea and then they can turn around an move out into the private market and have a company that hires and employs people,” said Aberdeen Development Corporation CEO Mike Bockorny.

Staff will be available at the Innovation and Startup Center to assist those entrepreneurs with their process.

“The grant is actually hiring a director, we’re going to have some student workers, some grad assistants, we’re going to be working with the ADC for some program coordination services as well. So, aspiring entrepreneurs can come in at any stage of their business and we can help them move to the next stage,” said Walters.

All workshops and programs will be free and offered not only to NSU students, but to the entire Aberdeen community and surrounding areas.

“It’s not just for our students. It’s absolutely for community members in Aberdeen as well as in the region. So, if folks have ideas, they can bring those ideas to the Center, they can attend a workshop, they can attend a boot camp, and we can get them networked with others who have some skillsets to be able to help them move on to that next stage,” said Walters.

The resources of the Innovation and Startup center will also be offered online to increase accessibility.

“Being able to access that information at three in the morning when you have a great idea, or at 6 a.m., or at 7 p.m. when you don’t want to come into town and it’s snowing, that will work really well for our region and enable the impact of the Startup Center to be far beyond Aberdeen and throughout the whole region,” said NSU Associate Provost Erin Fouberg.

The overall goal is to advance startups, particularly in technology, within a rural area.

”This opens up an opportunity for us to continue to diversify our economy here in northeast South Dakota through the creation of a digital ecosystem, which means technology jobs. That’s not a big focus and hasn’t been a big focus up here in northeast South Dakota. Now, it will be,” said Bockorny.

The Innovation and Startup Center is temporarily located within the Beulah Williams Library on Northern State’s campus, but it will be permanently housed in the new building that will replace Lincoln Hall in the future.