Elizabethtown Small Business Incubator

May 26, 2017


By Ellis Johnson

Small business incubators, like the businesses they are designed to support, often fail at achieving their goals. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy describes a small business as an independent business employing fewer than 500 persons–meaning 99.9% of all US firms are small business. According to the Small Business Administration, 20.1% of establishments started in 2014 failed by the end of 2015. After five years, only half of all establishments remain open. After ten or more years, only 33% of establishments survive. The difficulty of starting and maintaining a small business has driven policymakers to consider strategies for helping these firms develop.

Through case study research and targeted interviews with the business community NCGrowth is working to help the Bladen County Economic Development Commission better understand what services its new small business incubator in Elizabethtown should provide to ensure success for the incubator and the businesses it supports.

Through the NC Business Incubator Association NCGrowth identified two case study communities and reached out to individuals from Dunn, NC (Triangle South Enterprise Center) and Columbus County, NC (home to three former incubators that are now closed). NCGrowth interviewed key representatives from each of the communities including incubator staff, Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center staff, Committee of 100 members, business owners and former incubator clients.

Two themes emerged from the interviews: 1) the need for strong partnerships and 2) the right people to support and champion the incubator. These themes will be woven into concrete recommendations for Bladen County to consider and implement as they complete their small business incubator in Elizabethtown, currently slated to open in October 2017.

Ellis Johnson is an NCGrowth analyst and dual master’s candidate in UNC Chapel Hill’s Department of City and Regional Planning and School of Government.


NCGrowth’s mission is to help businesses create good jobs and to help communities create sustainable and equitable opportunities for their people.

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