MASON CITY – The NIACC Pappajohn incubator isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, according to two Mason City business owners.
Leland and William Foster, who own and operate Cyclone Steel, Inc., were evicted last week from their space in the incubator.
“We got a letter in the mail Sautrday, I just happened to check my mail and the letter was there. We have to be out by the end of the day Tuesday (Dec. 4th.),” said Leland Foster.
Asked to explain why they are being evicted, both men laid the blame on NIACC President Debra Derr.
“She wants to bring a diesel program out here and use our space for the classes,” they said. “That’s not in the spirit of what this place is meant to be used for. It’s an incubator for small start-up businesses, not classroom area. I’m sure John Pappajohn wouldn’t approve.”
Both men said Derr refuses to take their phone calls.
Cyclone Steel’s incubator space consisted of a small office and a larger storage area where they kept construction equipment.
“It’s just a shell,” William Foster said. “They didn’t provide us with anything. No office equipment, no internet access. We had to wire our office ourselves.
“We got very little if any advice. They never explained about grants and other financial opportunities.”
Both men say they had never heard of the Micro-Enterprise program that the City of Mason City brokered in a partnership with the NIACC Pappajohn Center. The program is designed for small businesses who need help.
“We paid rent,” Leland said, explaining how the agreement to use the incubator space worked. “We paid rent and some others here didn’t, at times. We got a little behind. We admit that. They came out and told us not to sleep out here.”
The Fosters said they work long, odd hours throughout the day and evening and would be in the office at some of those times.
The Fosters said the eviction came at a bad time, just when business was picking up. They said they had just gotten back to the office Tuesday morning from what they described as a profitable job in the Des Moines Area. They also said NIACC refused to help them move out.
The next move for Cyclone steel, the brothers said, is to find an office in town and continue to try to grow the business. The Fosters said that Cyclone Steel employes 8 local people.
Both Leland and William went before the City Council in 2010 and asked for help for their business and were denied.
NorthIowaToday.com has been in contact with NIACC’s Jamie Zanios, Vice President of the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. Mr. Zanios has had an opportunity to watch the video interview (below) with the Fosters, and says there are “many errors and false statements” made. NIT plans a follow-up story when Mr. Zanios sends his full response.
Subscribers, watch video interview with Leland and William Foster as they cleaned out their office at the incubator on Tuesday, Dec. 4th, 2012: