The Maricopa City Council voted Tuesday to sign a lease on behalf of a local small-business incubator, extending its ability to function despite uncertainty about the city’s contract with the incubator’s parent organization.

Voting 5-1 in favor of the move, the city signed the 12-month lease with Transition Investments giving the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship the ability to operate for another year in their current offices.

Councilmember Julia Gusse cast the lone vote against the measure, despite personally benefiting from the programs offered by the MCE.

Gusse said she was reluctant to put the city on the hook for $2,232 a month – $26,793 a year – given that the city has not yet extended its contract with MCE’s parent organization – the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology.

“My son is going to go to ASU,” Gusse said. “I’m not going to get his room, I’m not going to get his classes scheduled, I’m not going to get anything unless he’s actually been accepted to the university.”

With this lease, the city will be the signatory, Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart said, as opposed to the past when NACET signed the lease. However, she said, the lease would be paid for out of the $200,000 grant MCE receives on behalf of the city.

MCE’s lease expired Sept. 30, Airheart said, so they would have to be out as soon as possible.

The organization was given an extension by the property owner to allow time for the city to decide on the matter.

Airheart further stressed the importance of the incubator, emphasizing its role as one of the three legs of the city’s economic development plan. The space, she said, would be under control of the city, which would allow them to sublease in the event the contract with NACET was not extended.

Mayor Christian Price agreed it’s better to have the space and not need it, than need it and not have it.

“We’re covering our rear-ends, so to speak,” Price said.

To be clear, Gusse’s vote against the measure was not out of disdain for the organization, she said. However, she thought it would be premature without a decision on the extension of the NACET contract.

The contract extension with the incubator will likely be decided on in the near future.


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