I’ve been chattering a lot about incubators lately, and only just now found out about a new one coming to Anacostia: The Greater Washington Fashion Chamber of Commerce will soon start accepting applications from designers for its flagship workspace at 1225-1231 Good Hope Road SE, to open in July 2012.
Sadly, it’s replacing ARCH Training Center, which recently hasn’t applied for the workforce development grants that kept it going for the last few years and is closing December 31. But this is a pretty exciting development for one of Anacostia’s two main streets (where neighbors have been raising hell about a shelter for homeless women going in a few doors down). The incubator will host between 16 and 18 part-time and eight full-time designers with 24-hour access to the facility, paying $275 and $800-850 per month in rent.
UPDATE, 3:50 p.m.: Just spoke with Duane Gautier, the guy in charge of ARCH Development, who shed some more light on the closure of the training center. It’s apparently been in the works since 2004, when the board realized that plenty of job training organizations had started up since ARCH was founded 20 years previously; they decided to double down on their economic development functions instead. But also, Gautier was frustrated by the direction in which the D.C. government started going with job training during the administration of former Mayor Adrian Fenty, and continuing under Vince Gray: Putting less money into each job-seeker, and giving them general job skills, rather than exactly what a given employer wanted.
“The way that the economy is going, and the way both the federal government and District considers job training and people in need was really totally opposite of what we thought needed to be done,” Gautier says. “Our focus has been trying to convince D.C. government that you need to work with private employers, and private employers then set standards to training, and you train to their standards…That was not their focus. They do not understand the issues that are facing people who have very little education and no job skills.”
The good thing, though, is that Gautier is working with D.C. Councilmember Michael Brown on legislation that would help create more incubators in other areas of the city, potentially through finding some seed money for new ones. A food incubator, hallelujah, is in the works.