Initiative Looking to Rev Up Innovation in DuPage County

Published by: Richard R. Klicki at Daily Herald Business Ledger When you mention innovation incubators, the talk usually revolves around downtown Chicago-based groups such as 1871 and Lightbank.

But an initiative being launched and supported by DuPage County plans to put the suburbs in that discussion as well.

It’s called the Rev3 Innovation Center, and the initiative’s goal is to provide up-and-coming entrepreneurs with the space, resources and support to develop and grow new businesses in DuPage County, according to Nicholas Zito, who is spearheading the group, which is under the direction of Choose DuPage.

Zito notes that, unlike the downtown incubators, Rev3 will be a comprehensive source for entrepreneurs to create and launch their businesses, develop their products and help them promote and grow the business once they’ve launched.

“We’re not just saying ‘build it and they will come,’” Zito said. “We’re not going to put them in a building and leave them to what they’re going to build. We’re offering a comprehensive service of resources.”

One of the key differences between Rev3 and the downtown groups is that Rev3 will focus on two key industries that are growing in the county — technology and manufacturing. Zito said a feasibility study conducted by Choose DuPage last year targeted the two as growth industries that would best benefit from the initiative.

As a result, Rev3’s main goal is to create a physical space where entrepreneurs cannot only have shared or dedicated office space and equipment, but can also have access to a manufacturing area with a metal and wood shop, and an electronics lab.

“We’re a true incubator,” Zito said. “The niche is the physical manufacturing. There is a need for manufacturing that has not been previously met. There’s nothing like it in the state.”

Rev3 is still looking for a space to call home, Zito notes, but expects to have a space in the county in the next few months, with the incubator running at full speed by year’s end. In the meantime, Rev3 is operational online with presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and has been holding a number of seminars for people interested in starting their own business since the initiative launched last October.

Rev3’s success will primarily come from partnerships with businesses, professionals and education organizations. Zito said the partnerships will provide everything from the experts to speak at seminars and provide support and guidance for the entrepreneurs, to providing the machinery and other equipment to run the facility.

“That’s what entrepreneurs need when they start a business,” Zito said. “They need guidance and support, from the big companies to the small service providers.”

Since Rev3’s launch, support and feedback has been promising, Zito said. The organization has landed five partnerships so far, and the seminars have drawn about 25-40 people. The mix of attendees, Zito said, has been an equal mix of post-college people “looking to build the next Facebook” and professionals who have been in the manufacturing business for a while “with their own ideas of creating a business.”

Zito’s work with Rev3 is being supported by other Choose DuPage members, including President and CEO Greg Bedalov, economic development director Bryan Gay, and consultant Neil Kane of NIU Naperville. In addition, Rev3’s conscience comes from a 13-member advisory board comprised of members from county industries as well as Choose DuPage board members.

“They are our planning team. They add to the depth of the resources we provide,” he said.

While under Choose DuPage’s arm for now, Zito said Rev3’s ultimate goal is to become a stand-alone nonprofit.

“We want it to become the premier place within the county to come and build your business. to seek partnerships, find counsel and rub elbows with other entrepreneurs within the county,” Zito said.

“We have the innovative, creative people here. They just have no where to go.”

NewsCourtney Healy