Bill Bean, director of William & Mary’s Technology and Business Center has been elected president of the Virginia Business Incubation Association (VBIA). His one-year term runs until next July. Bean has served on the VBIA board for over five-years including terms as secretary and vice president. He is joined on the board by Ron Monark, the managing director of William & Mary’s Alan B. Miller Entrepreneurship Center at the Mason School of Business.
VBIA was created in 2000 to promote the advancement of entrepreneurial and small business development in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As noted on their web site, VBIA promotes, encourages, and supports the successful establishment and operation of small business incubation programs to stimulate economic development activity in Virginia through the creation of new jobs, new investment and new business formation.
“We try to be thought leaders in finding ways to help businesses grow. We do that by looking at different resources, services and concepts that are out there that companies and communities can use to help them across a very wide-range of possibilities,” Bean said.
In this role, he said, the association introduces communities to the components that make an entrepreneurial community – like a high quality of life, strong arts community, strong local university, engaged Chamber of Commerce and a particularly active business community that celebrates business entrepreneurs.
“These things are additive and contribute to entrepreneurs wanting to come to a community,” he said.
Before coming to William & Mary, Bean spent over 30 years in technology based organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 1000 companies. His responsibilities have included those of engineering, sales and marketing management, and general manager and president for divisions of John Fluke Manufacturing Company (USA and The Netherlands), Marconi Instruments (The Netherlands, France, and USA), Schlumberger Smart Cards, and Wandel & Golterman’s Automatic Test Equipment Division. He later formed his own consulting company, RB Associates, which specialized in serving small technology companies. In addition to his duties at William & Mary, Bean is also managing the James City County Business Incubator.
Bean noted the three local communities – James City County, Williamsburg and York County – were real leaders regarding economic development in eastern Virginia.
“The Historic Triangle put a lot of effort into identifying what is entrepreneurship and what kind of tools can we provide for entrepreneurship,” he said. I think what the City of Williamsburg is trying to do with their Arts Center is a major program that will only benefit entrepreneurs in our region. James City County is really engaged in the incubator project which I think is crucial.
“We really want to position the VBIA as a thought leader for entrepreneurial development in the state of Virginia, so we want to continue to bring new programs to the state and we want to continue to encourage entrepreneurial support within the state,” he continued.
Once a community is readied for entrepreneurial growth, the next stage is “economic gardening,” Bean said. Economic Gardening tries to marshal second stage companies (roughly 10 – 100 employees) into accelerated growth. The Hampton Roads Partnership was introduced to economic gardening by the VBIA and is conducting an economic gardening pilot program on the Peninsula this fall.
In many ways, he said, it is the “it takes a village” concept of creating and growing companies.
An important key to the success of business incubation and economic gardening is the availability of investment capital, Bean said.
“The quicker the current economic crisis and malaise can be put to rest so that investment monies will begin to flow reasonably freely again, the better off we are going to be.”
Bean added that business incubation and economic gardening are vital in today’s tough economics time.
“Absolutely vital,” he said. “There are all kinds of statistics out there that show time and time again, that it is small business that really drives the economy.”
“When that slows down the whole chain slows down.”