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JSDC plans incentives for drone companies

The Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. put the welcome mat out for any company looking to locate an unmanned aerial system or drone business in Jamestown by approving one of the first incentive packages for the industry, according to Connie Ova, CEO of the JSDC.

Corey Shevlin, business development manager, told the JSDC Business Attraction Committee Monday that most UAS companies don't qualify for the new jobs training incentive offered through the North Dakota Department of Commerce because most UAS businesses are considered service businesses rather than primary sector.

Primary sector businesses usually manufacture or process a product.

The plan developed by the JSDC would offer a program similar to the new job training incentive to any UAS business locating in Jamestown or Stutsman County.

Shevlin said the plan bases the benefit on the number of employees up to 10 workers. The benefit would vary depending on the wages, but a new UAS company with five workers at average wages could see an incentive of about $42,000.

The company would have to furnish proof that it hired the workers, employee wages and invoices or receipts showing how the incentive money was spent.

Shevlin said the JSDC is not currently negotiating with any UAS company but was trying to be proactive in recruiting what is considered a growing industry for North Dakota.

"This a new industry and there are not a lot of incentives available," he said. "Maybe this helps draw a company to Jamestown."

In other business, the JSDC Board of Directors approved granting up to $50,000 per year for three years for the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center. The Entrepreneur Center will be operated by the University of Jamestown, which will contribute office space and supplies and student interns to aid in the operation.

Robert Badal, University of Jamestown president, said the university would serve as a catalyst and fiscal agent when the center begins operation.

"We hope it ultimately moves downtown and becomes more community based," he said.

The Entrepreneur Center would help people planning to start a business gather information. The student interns would be available for tasks including marketing, computer technology, accounting and engineering.

Shevlin said the grants could be reduced to about $16,000 per year if the Entrepreneur Center is successful in getting a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development department.

Chris Rathjen, president of the JSDC Board of Directors, said the Entrepreneur Center could be useful to future business startups in Jamestown or Stutsman County.

"It's great to have this in the toolbox of what we have in the community," she said.