The Ketchum Innovation Center is ushering in its next chapter of cultivating a modern, robust, and linked business economy as the team settles into its new location on Sixth Street and Second Avenue.
It’s been four years since KIC opened its doors under the umbrella of the Ketchum Community Development Corp. as a city-funded business incubator. Now, the goal has shifted beyond just housing small businesses to nurturing and strengthening a diverse year-round economic climate for residents. Inside the bustling 3,200-square-foot building, KIC is finding its stride.
“While the doors of the new space have only been open a short period, there have been a plethora of amazing connections being made here,” said executive director Christy Anna Gerber, who transitioned from board member to director this summer.
With the efforts of communications director Emmi Buck and an active board, the momentum is building. Whereas an incubator or business co-op is geared more toward housing businesses or providing access to workspace, KIC has elevated available programming and is working to be an information resource that helps connect and support professionals in all phases of their career.
“[We] are thrilled to be evangelists for entrepreneurs and facilitate connections, or foster business or individual growth,” offered Gerber.
The need is apparent. Ketchum has a thriving yet seasonal economy. Many small business owners, entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, and tech-savvy professionals flock to the Wood River Valley for a strong work-life balance.
According to Data USA, an online service that analyzes U.S census information, Blaine County’s most common industries are hospitality and food services, professional services, science fields, technology, and retail. Per capita, compared to other areas, Ketchum has a high number of residents working in arts and recreation, architecture, engineering, and business operations. The opportunities seem abundant. The seasonality of a mountain town, however, coupled with many work-from-home-type jobs and fewer large corporations, can make forging lasting professional connections and finding resources a bit tough.
That’s where KIC steps in.
“KIC’s mission is to facilitate economic growth in the Wood River Valley, aligned with today’s tech-based/innovative workforce, and inspired by mountain town-living,” said Gerber.
KIC does this through two fundamental concepts: education and connections. They provide collaborative workspaces, house resident entrepreneurs, and offer free community business education programming and networking events. Program types are based on community feedback on what is missing, what they’d like to learn, or what might interest them.
“The KIC workshops I have attended have transformed how I look at my business,” said Peter Pressley, owner of Sunburst Database, a Ketchum business focused on database design and application programming. “The workshops are meant to not only help new entrepreneurs, but existing businesses in the Valley.”
Whether a business owner, entrepreneur, or young professional looking for inspiration, the goal is to bridge the gap and continue learning. Ketchum business owner Craig Maxwell used KIC’s services to better understand how to run his business—Maxwell Structural Design Studio—everything from his billing system to insurance needs. Residents can attend programs focused on navigating social media, calculating start-up costs, how to create a website, public speaking tips, or find peer-focused groups for women and young professionals.
KIC is guided by a group of dynamic and passionate board members ranging from business executives to public officials with the intent to do a bit more than just network, like developing mentorship programs.
“The local entrepreneurs and businesses have been coming together as a community to solve problems and support each other,” Gerber said. “Having new entrepreneurs walk in KIC’s doors with their fresh ideas is so inspiring, and KIC is excited to support them in any way possible.”
And with a backdrop of pristine landscapes and mountain views, it is no wonder the new location is fostering creativity and strong relationships. With a picturesque view of Bald Mountain, the space is well-lit and roomy with tall ceilings, ample windows, and a variety of spaces to rent, host events, and to work.
“We are curating a group of entrepreneurs who want more than just a space to rent,” Gerber said. “They’re committed to fostering the growth and connections being made within the KIC community.”
SIDEBAR: Local Companies That Have Collaborated with KIC
Dr. Jody Stanislaw
Sun Valley Hydration
Rebecca Rusch / Rebecca’s Private Idaho