(Lakeland, Fla., June 24, 2009) â€“ Late yesterday, as violent thunderstorms doused central Florida yet again, Marshall Goodman sent a tweet: “No need to worry about the rain, Central Florida. Blue Sky is coming soon!”
Goodman, VP and CEO of the University of South Florida Polytechnic, announced today that USFP’s business incubation facilities will be named Blue Sky. Earlier this year the Central Florida Development Council invested $700,000 toward the construction of an incubation facility on the new I-4 campus, expected to open in 2012. In the meantime, however, the community will be served by at least two incubation facilities: one in Lakeland and one in Winter Haven, dubbed Blue Sky West and Blue Sky East, respectively.
Blue Sky West will be a 6,428 square-foot location at 116 S. Kentucky Ave. in Lakeland. Blue Sky East will open at 199 Ave. B NW in Winter Haven with 3,000 square feet. USFP officials expect both facilities to open in early fall 2009.
A tweet refers to a post on Twitter, the popular social networking site. Goodman used the relatively new technology, as well as his personal Facebook page, to tease online followers not about the weather but about economic development in central Florida.
The Blue Sky facilities will be the first public business technology incubators in Polk County. They will focus on attracting and nurturing entrepreneurial businesses by creating a place where USF Poly faculty, staff and students can work with businesses to develop innovative technology.
“This is an important step for our region, as we cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation,” says Goodman.
“These facilities will provide opportunities for a wide range of enterprises. Some will be raw start-ups, and some will be more advanced. Regardless of the stage, Blue Sky represents an opportunity to thrive.”
According to Goodman, “The story of innovation is the story of entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship is all about calculated risk. That is the principle upon which weâ€™ll base Blue Sky. We will provide a climate to nurture innovation.
â€œThis is a huge opportunity, not only for entrepreneurs but also for investors. We hope it will bring to this area more technology-oriented businesses with the potential for growth and new jobsâ€
Initially, USF Poly will seek information technology companies interested in software, networking and developing specific IT projects.
â€œWe have felt for the past five years at least that an incubator is integral to this regionâ€™s long-term economic success,â€ says Tom Patton, executive director of the Central Florida Development Council, whichÂ has donated a total of $1 million to theÂ USF Poly incubatorÂ concept. In addition to the $700,000 for construction on the new campus, CFDC donatedÂ $300,000Â for current operation of Blue Sky. USF Poly has pledged to match those operating funds to provideÂ $600,000 toÂ fundÂ Blue Sky.
TheÂ $700,000Â for construction willÂ be usedÂ to apply for state matching fundsÂ andÂ in pursuit of an Economic Development Administration grant. According to Patton, the long-term goal is a technology park that develops around the incubator at the heart of Florida’s High Tech Corridor.
â€œThis is a major step forward in developing and growing our technology incubator,â€ says Steve Budd, USFPâ€™s program director for entrepreneurship and venture planning. â€œIt will become a living, learning laboratory for interdisciplinary and applied research, education and training that directly impactsÂ technology commercialization and business development.
â€œOur incubator will be a focal point where the university’s academic development and our community’s economic development will blend and synergizeÂ to create a win-win for all stakeholders — the business community, our students, our faculty, and many others.Â I believe that this is where the magic happens, where we will create high-tech, high-wage jobs.â€
There are 7,000 incubators and counting around the globe, and they create jobs, grow companies and help technology evolve. President Obama has pledged $250 million a year in federal funds to seed a regional network of such organizations–an effort aimed at growing jobs and innovation.
â€œThis is the first time in the U.S. that a new administration has made this kind of commitment to innovation, entrepreneurs and technology,â€ says Dinah Adkins, president and CEO of theÂ National Business Incubation Association. â€œThis is the first time weâ€™ve had a presidential administration that wants to invest in this.â€
The U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration says business incubators provide communities with significantly greater results at less cost than do any other type of public works infrastructure project.
A recent study conducted for the U.S. Economic Development Administration showed that business incubators provide communities with significantly greater results at less cost than do any other type of public works infrastructure project. In the study of the economic impacts and federal costs of EDA construction program investments, researchers found that business incubators are the most effective means of creating jobs â€“ more effective than roads and bridges, industrial parks, commercial buildings, and sewer and water projects. In fact, incubators provide up to 20 times more jobs than community infrastructure projects (for example, water and sewer projects) at a cost of $144 to $216 per job compared with $2,920 to $6,872 for the latter, the report notes. For more information on the study visit www.nbia.org/works.
â€œBusiness incubators are critical components of the nationâ€™s entrepreneurial support infrastructure and the only public works projects that were designed entirely as job generators,â€ says Adkins. â€œThe jobs created by incubators arenâ€™t one-time construction jobs, but enduring, high-paying positions that contribute to community and U.S. global competitiveness.â€
Business incubation programs provide entrepreneurs with a guiding hand to help them turn their ideas into viable businesses.Â Many thousands more jobs have been created by companies that have graduated from these programs and now operate self-sufficiently in their communities. For more information about business incubation and the EDA study, visit www.nbia.org/works.
For more information on Blue Sky see poly.usf.edu/BlueSky.