Business Incubator Takes In Displaced Company

For years the Gulf Coast Business Technology Center in Biloxi has been a place where people just starting a business could set up shop and save on overhead cost. Katrina has expanded that role. The business incubator is also taking in existing companies trying to get back on their feet after the storm.

When John Schinn's medical software company moved out of the Business Incubator in 2003, he thought it was for good. Two years later, he's back because Hurricane Katrina destroyed his downtown Gulfport office.

"The options especially initially was very limited," said Schinn. "Office space was at a premium and you had a lot of displaced businesses that were also looking for space and I didn't want to make a rash decision. So the reason we decided to come back here was to get back on the coast, let things settle, and look for a place. We're looking for a more permanent location right now."

Employees at Knight Abbey are getting used to their new office space after seeing the old one flooded by eight feet of water. The printing company rented six bays but officials say it's wasn't enough space for the $6 million company. That's why Knight Abbey is adding another 2,800 square feet.

Chief Technology Officer Benson Young said, "In the environment after Katrina there's just not a lot of warehouse space. There's not a whole lot of manufacturing space. This was the best plan we could find."

The move has allowed more than half of Knight Abbey's 60 employees to go back at work. Those who run the business incubator.. say helping the local economy and workers was behind the change.

"The Development Commission and the Board of Supervisors certainly understood the businesses plight," said Gulf Coast Business Technology Center director Adele Lyons. "We needed those businesses to get back into business and with the hurricane there just weren't very many options or places for them to go. We had some space so we opened the doors and made it available to them."

Both businesses say they're thankful for this opportunity.

"Right now we're just glad to have a roof over our heads and be back on the coast," said Shinn.

Four displaced business and Biloxi Housing Authority have moved into the Gulf Coast Business Technology Center. The director says most of the businesses have six month leases but extensions are being considered.