Friday, January 9, 2009
by Chris Kauffmann
The University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program is expanding its regional reach with up to three new sites including its first virtual incubator as efforts to stir the economy take on added urgency due to the recession.
The program, which now has five sites, provides facilities and services such as legal and marketing advice to help startup companies grow faster and more successfully.
UCF is on the verge of finalizing agreements that would establish or expand incubation programs in Osceola and Lake counties, and is in the preliminary stages of working out an agreement with the city of Winter Park to create a virtual business incubator that would do everything a regular incubator does, except provide space.
These things have been talked about for years, but everything is coming together now, said Tom O'Neal, executive director of the UCF Incubation Program. A lot of people are trying to figure out ways to stimulate the economy, so there is more incentive to do this now.
That's the way economic development officials in Lake County and
Leesburg look at it. The 4,000-square-foot Leesburg Business & Technology Incubator opened
in mid-2007 and has had some success, but now officials want to broaden its base and partner with UCF because of the university's resources, services and proven track record in incubating companies. It's a great opportunity to leverage our resources, said Dottie Keedy, Lake County's director of economic growth and redevelopment.
Toward that end, the Lake County Commission will consider approving an agreement Jan. 27 that would have UCF hire a manager to run the facility, which would have an $85,000 annual budget. Keedy hopes to have UCF running the program within the next couple of
months, which will be part of a long-range goal of having three UCF business incubators in Lake County.
Meanwhile, Osceola County has taken concrete steps to move ahead with UCF. As 2008 drew to a close, the county commission agreed to commit $675,000 over five years to fund the St. Cloud Research & Technology Center Incubator a partnership between the county, UCF and the city
of St. Cloud.
The 14,200-square-foot incubator will be at Stevens Plantation's Corporate Campus in St. Cloud and can handle up to 25 technology and research businesses when it opens in 2010 or 2011.
We're hoping it will generate more businesses for Osceola County, said Maria Toumazos, Osceola's economic development administrator. Data shows that 87 percent of companies remain in business five years after graduating [from incubation programs], so I know it
As for the virtual incubator, that would be a great way to lower costs to establish a program, said Sherry Gutch, Winter Park's community redevelopment director. Businesses would be able to have access online to the services and programs offered through UCF.
Like Lake County, Winter Park wants to hire UCF to run the virtual incubator, which O'Neal estimated will probably cost $50,000-$100,000 a year. Though nothing is set in stone yet, Gutch would like to see the virtual incubator in place by March or April.
- University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program
- Executive director: Tom O'Neal
- Description: Provides facilities and services to help startup companies grow faster and more successfully
- Locations: Central Florida Research Park, downtown Orlando, on the UCF campus, Colonial Drive and Winter Springs
- Contact: email@example.com, www.incubator.ucf.edu