What's going on at TReK?

Photos by Michele DeLuca/StaffDirector Pat Whalen sits upon his desk, a rolling file cabinet, at the new TReC center at 616 Niagara St. in Niagara Falls, opened by the Niagara Global Tourism Institute to aid local entrepreneurs.

NIAGARA FALLS — Those passing by may have noticed the changes at 616 Niagara St., but it's likely few know what's happening inside the newly renovated buildings.

They may have seen the colorful sign that reads "TReC" but probably wouldn't guess it's a place where small businesses are born and supported, like eggs in an incubator. It's a place, people say, where dreams very well could come true.

So, what exactly is TReC? To hear people talk, it's a place where anyone who has an idea for a business can get assistance on how to create and grow that business. The ultimate goal of the place is more successful businesses in Niagara Falls and all the financial benefits that come with such success.

TReC is modeled after a small business incubator called "dig" in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, created by Pat Whalen when he was chief operating officer of the campus during its evolution as a center for medical innovation. Dig was created to help grow small businesses in the area of research and medicine with co-working and event spaces, educational and networking opportunities and personal mentors.  

Whalen — now the director of Niagara University's Global Tourism Institute —  recently led the unveiling of TReC, a small business incubator very much like Dig, but with travel and tourism leanings. Clearly a fan of unusual names, he decided to call the Niagara Falls incubator TReC because he said starting a business is much like a trek up a mountain.

"Starting and growing businesses is like climbing Mount Everest," Whalen explained recently during a tour of the new building, which is comprised of two formerly abandoned buildings at the corner of Niagara and Seventh streets. "The ones that make it have guides. Nobody can do it alone, that's why we have guides or sherpas as we call them."

The idea is that small business owners or those who hope to open a small business, can purchase a membership to the center for $100 a month.

Members receive a key fob to use the facility whenever they need it and have access to "sherpas," classes, networking and more, including a coffee shop set to open soon at the site by local chef Bobby Anderson.

Jack Martin, owner of J. Fitzgerald Group advertising in Lockport, who is considering signing on as a "sherpa," because one day a week he can work from the TReC offices. He is a big fan of Pat Whalen. "He’s going to turn the city around, just like he did with Buffalo," Martin said. "I’m convinced there’s only one person can do it and that’s Pat."

For more information about TReC, visit the center at 616 Niagara St., Niagara Falls, or visit online at https://trecbyngti.com.

MORE INSIDE

• A better look at what's happening inside TReK on Niagara Street. LOCAL, 8A

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