The Sierra Vista Area Chamber of Commerce is investing in the area by supporting economic, workforce and leadership development.

Chamber CEO Melany Edwards-Barton and her team created a 5013c foundation to help fundraise and apply for grants to support economic, workforce and leadership development. One of the ways they are achieving their goal is by helping create a science and technology business incubator here in Sierra Vista. Edwards-Barton said she approached the City of Sierra Vista and the idea flourished into the first science and technology business incubator in rural Arizona.

We had to have a foundation so that we can raise funds or go after grants to help support economic development and workforce development in this area,” Edwards-Barton said. “And thats part of the reason we created it, so we can take part in this program.

The local organizations are working with the University of Arizona’s Center for Innovation to find young businesses who could benefit from the mentorship program with the ability to work in the incubator building space. People who have a innovative science or technology-based business can apply to be a part of the incubator program on the Sierra Vista Area Chamber’s website.

According to the application form, “Through a collaboration and sponsorship with the City of Sierra Vista and the Southeastern Arizona Chamber Foundation, UACI is offering a sponsored year at the incubator for three deserving startups with a committed team that is working to solve a significant business or social challenge in the science and technology industry. This prize package will also include office space at with the Industrial Development Authority of the City of Sierra Vista. The total prize package is valued at $5,000 per company.”

Each sponsor will determine which application will award the $5,000 prize to and will be looking for applicants to show they are committed to impacting the local economy and workforce in a positive way. Edwards-Barton said science and technology was chosen as the theme for the businesses because of Fort Huachuca being in the county and because Cochise County has two colleges with highly rated cybersecurity programs.

Edwards-Barton said one of the reasons the chamber wanted to create a foundation is because the money is paid out by the local sponsor and to be a part of the incubator they had to be able to fund the prize for a business. At their first fundrasing event in April, Edwards-Barton said they raised almost $20,000, which will allow them to possible sponsor multiple businesses.

To bring a business incubator here, with the creation of our foundation, its so important because opportunity matters,” Edwards-Barton said.”And when were talking about leadership development, were talking about growing our leaders. We cant grow leaders without opportunities.

The third aspiration for the Southeastern Chamber Foundation is to provide leadership development opportunities for young leaders. Edwards-Barton said they are moving their leadership program to the foundation so they can provide scholarships for individuals to participate in the 10-month program.

Edwards-Barton said she hopes this new foundation helps show residents and people from outside the area that their are opportunities for growth and businesses in southeastern Arizona.