Business Incubator Hatches Two New Companies

When Norm Freese was 72, he realized retirement wasn't for him. "So I went back to work, started a business," he said.

That business was called Coastal On Site Maintenance. And it started on a shoestring budget. "I had nothing. I had no trucks. No clients. Nothing," he laughed.

Fast forward seven years. Freese now has two vans and two mechanics. One of them is Chris Nash. "Ninety percent of our business is large truck repairs," the mechanic said.

As many as 50 clients now count on this operation to keep their fleet of trucks on the road. Things are going so well, the 79 year old Freese told his landlord he's leaving his first floor incubator office. Freese couldn't be happier. "I can stay busy," he said. "The wheels don't turn if you don't stay busy."

Up on the business technology center's second floor, it's not wheels turning but a health care technology program that has John Shinn's fingers moving faster than ever. In 2000, Shinn's PPC Plus Software group needed help. It came to the incubator with just 10 clients, and barely $50,000 in software sales. These days, his client map has 150 push pins in 30 states. And sales agents are having a much easier time selling the home healthcare software. In just three years, software sales have reached the half million dollar level. Shinn credits that to "a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck, and just persistence."

Suddenly, PPC is too big for the incubator. So Monday September 29 is moving day. PPC becomes the 56th graduate of the business technology center.

At the moment, the Gulf Coast Business Technology Center has 25 tenants. The businesses they've created add rougly $35 million to the local economy.