Community alive with entrepreneurs

Letter from the Board Chair

North Central Florida, we need to talk. Inspired minds are growing in our backyard, and we can’t afford to lose them. With 10+ incubators in Alachua and Bradford counties and University of Florida’s INSPIREation Hall – the nation’s first entrepreneurship-based academic residential community – our entrepreneur ecosystem grows larger each day.

Since 2012, CareerSource North Central Florida has been awarded $27 million in grants for innovative entrepreneurship training programs and support for growing businesses both here in our community and statewide.

Born in Gainesville, the entrepreneurship training program Startup Quest® is funded by a $12 million U.S. Department of Labor grant, one of the largest Workforce Innovation Fund grant awards ever. Successful CEOs and entrepreneurs volunteer time and mentor participants as they create commercialization plans for university and NASA technologies. In eight Florida metropolitan areas, 167 Startup Quest® trainees have become self-employed with more than 30 hailing from Alachua County.

Other USDOL-funded programs like Healthcare, Biomanufacturing, Occupational and Technology Training (HBOTT) and STEM Ready help businesses create new positions by providing reimbursement for on-the-job training or becoming an employer worksite for paid work experience and internships – costs covered by CareerSource North Central Florida.

Find that in Silicon Valley or Boston or New York.

HBOTT has created more than 300 local jobs at 25 companies (mostly startups), and STEM Ready launches this summer.

Marketing company SharpSpring credits HBOTT with solving the ‘chicken or the egg’ problem, the ability to hire staff to generate revenue without revenue to hire staff. Founder Rick Carlson points to our integrated startup community as the source of his talented team. SharpSpring sold for $15 million last year and relocated just six blocks east to the downtown Firestone building.

Branding and digital studio Parisleaf followed a similar path, growing from printing startup to global creative agency and opting to move to Innovation Square, a collaborative business park for people, companies and entrepreneurs.

So why are they staying? Look around, and you will see many organizations supporting entrepreneurship regardless of age, education or experience.

Get involved! Join Gainesville Area Innovation Network or OwnForce.com; explore Santa Fe College’s Center for Innovation and Economic Development incubator programs. Drop in on a class at the Bradford County Incubator or attend an Alachua County Emerging Leaders meeting. Stop by Hackerspace, The Tech Toybox or StudioCode to see what your neighborhood creatives are making. Spread the word and invite others to Gainesville for our local entrepreneurship week in October, UF’s A Celebration of Innovation, BioFlorida’s Celebration of Biotechnology, Startup Hour, 3-Day Startup Weekend or the Cade Museum’s Inventivity Bash. Check out the Startup Quest®sup> Investor Pitch next Tuesday, May 12.

Gainesville is a “live, work, play” destination. Let’s not lose sight of our aptitude for community collaboration. (Region of Excellence Award ) Show our entrepreneurs what Gainesville has to offer: on-the-job training, world-class talent, growth opportunities and a thriving culture of creativity, innovation and, most importantly, support.

Thomas McIntosh
– Thomas McIntosh
Board Chair, CareerSource North Central Florida
President and owner, Berkshire Hathaway Trend Realty and Trend Management Solutions