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Local News

Santa Barbara Foundation Commits $25,000 to Fund Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet

UCSB, the Goleta Chamber of Commerce and the City of Goleta also pledge large donations to kick-start the small-business incubator

The Santa Barbara Foundation has become the first nonprofit to promise a significant upfront donation to fund the Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet small-business incubator.

The philanthropic organization has pledged $25,000 to fund GEM, a partnership of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, the City of Goleta and UC Santa Barbara to attract and nurture local tech startup businesses.

The Santa Barbara Foundation’s gift follows donations from the city and the university, which both have formally committed to funding $50,000 per year for three years.

The Chamber of Commerce will donate the same $150,000 over three years, along with Santa Barbara entrepreneur Chris Felipe.

Chamber president and CEO Kristen Miller told Noozhawk that the combined donations mark “an important turn” for the program that is still a startup itself.

Philanthropy has now been added to GEM’s original partners in business, government and education, all working to strengthen the local economy.

“We are thrilled to say that we’ve reached a milestone in funding our Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet program and initiative,” Miller said. “What’s significant about it is that the parties are looking at a three-year growth timeline, which shows the recognition that new things like this need some time to get started and get going.

“Having the Santa Barbara Foundation invest in an economic development program is huge because I think it acknowledges and addresses the fact that this is a critical need in our community, and something that can have a long-standing positive effect on our community.”

Jan Campbell, senior vice president of Santa Barbara Foundation, said the nonprofit likes GEM's collaborative spirit. 

"It’s part of an overall economic development focus that we’re looking to focus on in 2014," Campbell said. "Ultimately, good jobs and a vibrant economy speak to the solving of some of the largest social ills that we have. We will be evaluating our support as we move forward.”

Miller said the new funding would help GEM secure a physical space for its operations, hopefully by Feb. 1.

A likely location is 5,000 square feet of space in the current ATK Space Systems building at 600 Pine Ave. in Old Town Goleta — across the street from a former potential GEM center location where the Chamber of Commerce hosted an open house.

Miller said negotiations weren’t quite finalized, but she was hopeful a deal could be reached soon so GEM could begin looking for potential tech startup tenants.

Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett said the recent, rapid success of the partnership shows the power of multiple entities working toward a shared goal.

"GEM helps to celebrate Goleta’s history as a place of innovation and forward-looking ideas for the betterment of our community as a whole,” he said.

Recently retired UCSB Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas said the university was happy to help fund the GEM cause.

“We’re excited to partner with the City of Goleta and the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce to promote an effort that will help take ideas generated in the laboratories at UC Santa Barbara and create startups in Goleta, start-ups that will create new jobs and benefit society in general,” Lucas said in a statement.

Felipe echoed a similar sentiment, noting the thrill of watching young entrepreneurs start their careers.

"GEM provides opportunity to early stage companies and entrepreneurs to create exciting businesses that will benefit the Central Coast for years to come," he said.

Miller said she was still reveling in the news, but noted that the foundation’s donation might have opened the door for GEM to talk to other philanthropic groups.

“I can’t help dreaming about the future where we get even bigger,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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