dcx-09292021-nws-IMG_4056.JPG

Eric Dregne, director of the new Innovation Lab in Dyersville, speaks to a crowd of approximately 30 people who attended a sneak-peek of the downtown storefront, Sept. 23.

Innovation Lab, which is set to open sometime in October, hosted a sneak peek at what the new downtown Dyersville storefront can offer to the business community, Sept. 23.

When starting a business, entrepreneurs often have a difficult time making the leap from the at-home start-up to a physical location, namely because finding the right size space is difficult, and when available, can be unaffordable.

But the Innovation Lab’s business model, which is simply to help other businesses, allows them to offer temporary and long-term opportunities to get a space and one of the organization’s key principles is to keep everything as low cost as possible.

“We don’t want money to be a barrier to entry,” Innovation Lab Director Eric Dregne said, noting it offers space at the starting price of $49 per month. “At $49, you can’t even buy Internet at the speed we can give it to you.”

For $149 a month, a person can get a dedicated desk, which can also be rented by the month. This is a concept that Dregne feels makes it unique, as that option is virtually unavailable in the area.

But this space isn’t just for the start-up or solo entrepreneur — Dregne said it’s a pretty common occurrence for them to house an established company’s employees while they are in the process of finding a new location or even while renovations are occurring.

Innovation Lab also doesn’t just offer a desk and reliable Internet connection as part of their monthly fee — it provides business counseling, coaching, networking opportunities and monthly expert panels, another service that can be difficult to find in smaller communities.

In 2005, Dregne said he was involved in Dubuque’s Imagine 2010 effort, an experience that made him realize that even offering communities simple tools can be more than enough to give them a nudge in the right direction.

“If you can get a community focused around an idea, it can do amazing things,” Dregne said.

While innovation is part of the company’s name, Dregne said it is a buzzword that is thrown around too often in the business world, causing it to lose its meaning to some.

“For us, we’re pretty clear about what innovation means — it means implementing new ideas, it’s that simple,” he said. “Anyone can be creative and come up with new ideas but never do anything with them. We want to get companies to turn the corner and actually implement the things that they create — that’s why we say innovation is the thing that transforms ideas into value.”

Opening in towns like Cascade and Dyersville is part of their rural strategy, which has a lot of potential to attract remote workers, an opportunity Dregne hopes smaller communities can capitalize on.

Given that an Innovation Lab doesn’t require much infrastructure to operate, Dregne said there are a lot of opportunities for them to fill empty storefronts and help bring districts back to life. In Dyersville, a few coats of paint, new flooring and upgrades to the bathroom were all that was really needed to get the space ready.

“We spend most of our money on Internet, because we want that to be as fast as it can be,” Dregne said.

More information about the Innovation Lab can be found at innovationlab.us.