Urbana recognized as a top city for startups

URBANA—Urbana is being recognized alongside cities like St. Louis and New York as one of the best places for start-ups in the country.

It wasn't easy for entrepreneur Chris Harbourt to put down roots for his startup, Agrible.

“We went to the east coast and where we moved was just a traffic snarl and a mess,” said Harbourt, the company's CEO. “And we really moved back to Illinois for a number of reasons.”

One reason being that Champaign-Urbana was the perfect fit for his growing company, which creates products that help farmers predict how the weather will impact their crops.

“It's been a wonderful community for us,” said Harbourt. “Many large businesses here that are offering advice, even contracts, ways to work together. And also the resources that the Research Park staff make available to us.”

Agrible is one of about 170 companies that have been born at the University of Illinois' Research Park. That ability to induce innovation landed Urbana on Popular Mechanics' list of the best startup cities in America.

“When somebody comes to us and says they want to start a company we're automatically able to get them in touch with someone who's done a startup before, get them free and high quality advice,” said Laura Frerichs, director of the U of I's Research Park. “We're able to help them with legal services, accounting services, we provide low cost space for them to occupy where the cost of doing business really might be prohibitive for an early space company.”

That small-town feel also encourages these evolving businesses.

“A real sense of community that helps us have a good go at it and a good shot at getting launches and getting out there and doing something fun,” said Harbourt. “And profitable, hopefully, someday.”

Taking them from startup to full blown business.

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