Beecher Center to host 43North

August 20, 2014 Updated Aug 20, 2014 at 7:48 AM EDT

By Dan Miner, Reporter- Business First

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August 20, 2014 Updated Aug 20, 2014 at 7:48 AM EDT

The 43North business plan competition will soon have a new home - in the Thomas R. Beecher Jr. Innovation Center.

43North is in the final stages of lease negotiations with the Innovation Center's owner, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc., for a roughly 10,000-square-foot space, said Patrick Whalen, BNMC Inc. chief operating office.

The goal is for the 43North organization and the 11 winners of the competition to be in the space by January, which is when the term begins for the winners.

43North is in its inaugural year and appears to be the largest business plan competition in the world, with $5 million in cash prizes divvied up between 11 winners, including an $1 million grand prize. The catch is that winners need to run their operations from Buffalo for at least one year - with the idea that a package of incentives and Buffalo's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem will be enough to convince them to stay longer.

Right now, 43North employees work out of Z80 Labs Inc., a downtown incubator whose co-founder, Jordan Levy, is also chairman of the 43North steering committee.

The $800,000 renovation will take place in previously unused Innovation Center space, which BNMC Inc. had tentatively slated for a another project. It's between the Innovation Center's initial footprint and its d!g space, fronting Ellicott Street while stretching all the way to the recently purchased, soon-to-be-renovated Phoenix Brewery building.

It's part of an assortment of real estate moves associated with the "Buffalo Billion" projects. BNMC Inc. purchased 847 Main St., now called the Innovation Center Annex, earlier this year after being granted roughly $8 million in state money.

In turn, BNMC promised to lease space for the initial home of the Buffalo Niagara Advanced Manufacturing Institute, supported with $45 million in "Buffalo Billion" funds.

Another stipulation was BNMC would provide space for 43North, another Buffalo Billion project. 43North is funded by a $5.4 million New York Power Authority allocation. Organizers have committed to the project for at least five years.

Meanwhile, Whalen said Tuesday that BNMC Inc.'s biggest frustration is that it's out of space. The Innovation Center is filled to capacity, from its fourth-floor incubator to office space for more established companies on the lower floors. But the organization has not yet decided on a location for its next big project, Innovation Center 2, as it continues negotiations to try and acquire a city-owned parking garage. BNMC Inc. officials are eager to get the project underway, especially because an associated parking garage is seen as necessary to handle the influx of students, employees and patients that will be flooding the medical campus in coming years.

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