RIO COMMUNITIES — Businesses are booming at the Valencia County Business Incubator.

As the incubator recently passed its six-month mark, it boasts eight clients with a waiting list of 20-plus clients.

Ben Romero, VCBI’s part-time interim director, said the incubator is exceeding it’s initial goals.

The original feasibility report on the incubator projected five to 15 clients in the first year, with a full-time staff. Year two anticipates a bump up to 10 to 20 clients, and by year three, a 4,000-square foot mixed-use kitchen incubator.

The incubator is currently run by part-time staff members, Romero said, so pushing for faster growth could endanger client success.

“Right now, everyone is part-time. We could push and blow it out of the water but we really want to focus on client’s needs,” Romero said. “If we are not focusing on their needs and helping them succeed, we’re not doing our job.”

The incubator has five tenant clients that use space at VCBI’s headquarters at Rio Communities City Hall, and three affiliate clients, which use the incubator’s consulting and advisory services and have space off site.

“Some of our clients had an idea and needed to get registered as an LLC. Others were registered businesses but needed help with marketing,” he said.

With 21 clients on a waiting list, Romero said the need for funding for more resources and a full-time staff is very real.

“We have had more than 90 clients contact us; we get daily inquiries from a wide variety of enterprises. We need a full-time staff to accommodate that need,” he said. “We meet daily with some of our clients, less with others. It depends on their needs.

To meet the needs of their clients, VCBI is partnering with nonprofits, such as the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, which can help incubator clients obtain proper permitting to sell their products in Albuquerque.

“We also have an exciting new board member, Dr. Sam (Dosumu, chancellor at the University of New Mexico-Valencia campus). We are going to put together some low-to-no-cost workshops taught by UNM instructors,” Romero said. “And we are working with the Rio Communities MakerSpace to use assets we already have in the community.”

Romero said the business incubator is also working with organizations such as H2 Academics to mentor middle and high school students in the hopes of creating “a pipeline for kids who want to be entrepreneurs.

If they are exposed to the aspects of entrepreneurship and what it takes, then hopefully when they turn 18, they will stay here and create cool businesses.”

Looking to the future, the incubator’s biggest goal is to get a full-time staff, he said.

“People have a lot of interest. They want to drop in and learn,” he said. “We will be going after larger federal grants. It takes a lot of money to support an incubator like ours and a lot of upkeep with the finances, both by ourselves and with our partners.”

In the coming months, Romero said the incubator will be able to take on a few more clients and will focus on engaging with youth and holding client-led networking and speaking events.

“We want to do monthly events with the first 30 minutes featuring a speaker and the second 30 minutes where people can network and mingle,” Romero said.

“We noticed when you put business owners and investors in the same room, it increases business-to-business sales, which helps keep money here and invests in local jobs.”

Romero said the team at the VCBI is “amazing” and none of its success would be possible without them.

“We are here for the community,” he said. “We’re not going to thrive without community support. It’s very humbling to be able to do this.”

For more information about the Valencia County Business Incubator, visit

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.