Empowering Neighbors – nxtARROW’s John Howell
From Seamus Gallivan: I first heard about nxtARROW Business Development Corporation from Dan Gigante, founder of good neighborly apparel company You and Who, who was planning their partnered promotion called “Do One Thing for Buffalo” and the “I’m for Buffalo” army at the same time that we were partnering on the Home for the Holidays concert series benefiting Compass House.
nxyARROW’s business model is outside-the-box to say the least – and Empowering Neighbors at its best, thus an interesting candidate for Megan Callahan’s weekly feature. If you have someone you think is an Empowering Neighbor, please contact Megan at callahan.megan-at-gmail.com or myself at seamus-at-thegoodneighborhood.com.
By Megan Callahan
John Howell, President and Chief Creative Officer of the recently launched nxtARROW Business Development Corporation, is a Buffalo repat who moved back home after decades away when an idea he had pitched for the following concept had yet to materialize into anything concrete. He partnered with some mid-level executives who had been “displaced by changes in the economy,” and got them on board for a bold venture –
- ·a virtual region-wide business incubator in Buffalo, New York
- ·an entrepreneur services company
- ·a concierge to entrepreneurs and start-ups
actively recruiting out of town start-ups to relocate to Buffalo
It is the mission of nxtARROW Business Development Corporation to make Buffalo, New York and the Buffalo Niagara Region a world-class center for business development, entrepreneurship and start-ups.
Leverage Buffalo’s excess capacity in assets, resources and services for mutual benefit of entrepreneurs moving into the community and the existing business to business companies in Buffalo.
Why nxtARROW ?
100 years ago, Buffalo was home to the Pierce Arrow Automobile Co., a maker of beloved luxury vehicles that won races worldwide and brought a romance to the early days of the automobile. We’re ready to find the next “Arrow.” Will it be your company?
What have you noticed in the neighborhood that’s changed since you’ve been back? I noticed on your website you have a page that’s singing the praises of all these things that are ready to erupt in Buffalo – quotes from various press publications…but can you personalize that a bit with what you’ve experienced since you’ve been back? What has changed, or not changed?
I think a lot more attention has been paid to historic preservation then when I was here before. Statler being one of the exceptions but that’s coming back around. So that’s definitely one thing. A lot of other things are pretty much the way I remembered them. The great neighborhoods, especially – I live very close to Gates Circle, and I love to go walking down Chapin Parkway to Lincoln Parkway. And I’m really into architecture, so I’ve been enjoying that. The cultural climate is much better then when I lived here before. We have so many different theater groups and they’re all excellent, I would say they are professional quality. Similar to whatever I might have seen in Chicago or New York or anywhere else I might have been in my life. So that’s very impressive.
I try to leverage all of those great things about Buffalo to promote the city to people who are trying to recruit folks to come back into it. And obviously the cost of housing is a great recruiting tool. I bought a house in kind of a marginal neighborhood that’s on its way back. We have a wonderful hundred-year-old Arts and Crafts house, three stories, just wonderful – and I got it for $67,000! So you know I’ve kind of targeted high cost markets – L.A.; the Bay Area; Chicago; Miami; NY, DC, and have said, “Hey, you know for what you put down on your house you could own a house free and clear here, maybe even less than that.”
And you offer people support for a whole year?
Well, if you’re a startup, everything that you would have to pay somebody for your first year – from rent to branding to creative, legal, financial, administrative, all of that – anything other than the cost of doing whatever your business is, is covered. So if you make widgets, you have to buy your supplies; your equipment; and you have to process them. We can do everything else for you. We’ll find you the space to do it in. We’ll find you financial people to help you keep track of whatever you need to keep track of.
How are you funding this?
It’s all basically contributed. What we’re doing is going to people in Buffalo who have the excess capacity and we’re trying to leverage. We say to them, “If you think you have, let’s say, a certain amount of space that’s for rent for office use, and you’re pretty sure you’re not going to rent it out – give it to us, we’ll put somebody in there and we’ll generate foot traffic.” So they’ll, for example, sign a five-year lease: first year is free, years two through five are the market rate. So giving it up for a year, you weren’t going to generate any revenue anyway, and you ensure four years of revenue. You get foot traffic, you get activity, it looks more marketable then it would otherwise. Let’s say you have a law firm, you have enough staff that you could take on one more project or client without having to add hours for anybody or bring any new staff on to do it, then why not take care of our people and with your excess capacity. And then again, they will agree to use you for your services for X number of years afterward and pay you your market rate. So that’s the way we put the whole package together.
And then we have a second approach. Let’s say we go to someone and they say, “Well we don’t think that makes business sense for our company.” Then I’ll say, “Great – think about it as a philanthropic project, and what would you donate to make Buffalo a better place? It’s all still going to come back to you anyway. So if you don’t see how it could work for your business plan, then what else can you do?”
The one thing we’re having the most trouble finding so far is housing. We are trying to offer housing as part of the package. And we’ve had difficulty locating people who are willing to donate housing the same way they are willing to donate office space.
What is your biggest hope for the city, long-term – this as a piece, or a step towards what you see happening for Buffalo?
My grandiose vision is for Buffalo to be as important in the new economy as it was in the industrial economy – kind of the equivalent of the Silicon Valley for the new entrepreneurial phase that we’re moving into. So it’d be a global destination for entrepreneurship, especially North America. We’d have an infrastructure that’d be extremely supportive to entrepreneurship so that this would be the first place people would think of when they think of where to launch a business – that they’d think Buffalo.
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