Up to five local entrepreneurs will be picked to receive free office space, free mentoring by college business faculty, access to start-up financing and other support in a business-incubator program slated to begin this fall.

The program is a joint venture of Fairfield University's Dolan School of Business, the town of Fairfield and Kleban Properties and is scheduled to begin in September. Participants would spend three to six months in the program, with the goal of developing ideas into businesses.

The university said any budding entrepreneur who has a business plan can apply to its Accelerator and Mentoring Enterprise program.

"We encourage people who'd like to see their business plans turned into reality to apply," Donald E. Gibson, the business school dean, said in a news release.

The program also is seeking investors and sponsors.

A review board will pick up to five entrepreneurs for the program in a competitive selection process. Those chosen will be mentored by business-school faculty and business people and attend workshops on ideation, valuation and competitive analysis.

Participants also will get downtown office space above the Fairfield University Bookstore in an area donated by Kleban Properties, which owns the building. Renovations are nearly complete on the 1,300-square-foot incubator site, which will feature work cubicles, open, collaborative spaces and meeting rooms.

Access to discounted services and technology resources also will be available.

When renovations are complete, a series of open houses will be scheduled for sponsors, advisers, state agencies and the public. Official opening is expected in early September

The university made a significant investment in downtown in November, when it moved its bookstore to the Post Road, filling a literary void left when Borders closed its bookstore there.

"Fairfield University has an obligation to share its resources and its special expertise for the betterment of the community as a whole," the Rev. Jeffrey won Arx, the university president said. "The hope is that these ideas evolve into viable business entities that take root in the region."

Gibson said the business school's undergraduate program in entrepreneurship is growing in popularity, and the incubator will be used as an instructional tool in academic programs.

Albert Kleban, president of Kleban Properties, said his firm sees the donation of office space as an investment in downtown Fairfield. "It is essential that we maintain the vitality of our downtown, and this effort will go a long way toward that goal," he said. "When local communities can pull together to support an idea like this, it is a great example of what can be done when growth and prosperity is the goal."

Mark S. Barnhart, the town's director

of Community and Economic Development, called the incubator "a real win-win for

everyone involved" and said start-up companies play a significant role in creating jobs.

"This is a great opportunity to leverage the enormous talent that we have in this region to stimulate new ideas and to drive economic development," he said.

For application and sponsorship information, email info@ameffld.com. To apply online, visit www.fairfield.edu/ame.