Category Archives: Economic Growth


Florida SBDC Network, Enterprise Florida Partner to Help State Businesses Expand Overseas

FSBDCN-LOGO-COLOR-800 pxThe Florida SBDC Network and Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) solidifying a partnership to assist Florida-based companies tap into overseas markets.

Scholarship Export Assistance Program
Under the agreement, the Florida SBDC and EFI, in partnership with the U.S. Commercial Service, are offering a scholarship export assistance program to help businesses identify overseas growth strategies. Through the MOU, qualified “new and infrequent export” manufacturers and professional service providers have the opportunity to meet with a Florida SBDC International Trade Specialist to prepare a customized export marketing plan.

Secretary of Commerce and EFI President and CEO Gray Swoope said, “EFI and the Florida SBDC Network work hard to make sure the state’s small businesses receive the trade assistance they need. Through this MOU we can support small business growth and grow Florida’s export economy. Our state’s seaports and airports make Florida the perfect location for companies looking to grow internationally, and we look forward to working with small businesses across the state.”

“The Florida SBDC Network is committed to helping Florida’s small businesses take advantage of exporting opportunities to grow and expand,” said Michael Myhre, Florida SBDC CEO and Network State Director. “We are pleased to partner with Enterprise Florida and the U.S. Commercial Service to offer better opportunities to our clients and to strengthen Florida’s economy through the expansion of U.S. exports.”

Customized Export Marketing Plan

The MOU calls for the creation of export marketing plans, which take an average of 120 hours to develop, and include a thorough export readiness assessment, industry analysis, market analysis with target market recommendations, a review of overseas trade opportunities and an action plan that will include export promotion programs and services.

Export promotion opportunities may include international trade shows, trade missions and other matchmaking services such as the Gold Key program which provides an opportunity for companies to meet with pre-screened and qualified buyers, agents, importers and representatives. Enterprise Florida offers additional grants to qualified businesses for each of these programs.

The estimated market value of an export marketing plan is $10,000. As a result of the partnership between the Florida SBDC and Enterprise Florida, the cost to qualifying companies is $500. The remaining amount is underwritten by the Florida SBDC and Enterprise Florida.

The MOU was signed by Secretary Swoope, Myhre and Manny Mencia, Senior Vice President of International Trade and Development for EFI. Representatives from the University of West Florida, the Florida SBDC and EFI gathered to witness the signing following EFI’s board of directors meeting.

For more information, visit


Downtown Market Brings Fresh Access Bucks to Polk County

photo by Laura L Davis

photo by Laura L Davis

Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market has joined forces with Enactus, a social entrepreneur group from Florida Southern College, to make it easier for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables.  Through a grant from Mosaic, the Market was able to provide the matching dollars needed for the Fresh Access Bucks Program which doubles the value of SNAP (food stamp) dollars when they’re spent at farmer’s markets for fresh, Florida grown fruits and vegetables.

Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) encourages healthy behaviors by making fresh, local produce more affordable and accessible to SNAP recipients (formally known as food stamps). The goals of FAB are to develop new market opportunities for farmers, increase access to and affordability of fruits and vegetables in underserved communities, and to increase people’s awareness of the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. FAB promotes healthy eating habits in vulnerable communities by enabling farmers markets to accept food stamps and allows SNAP recipients to purchase double their food dollars for Florida grown fruits and vegetables. A SNAP recipient who spends $10 on fresh Florida grown produce receives an additional $10 to purchase additional fresh, local produce. Currently, 21 farmers markets are participating across Florida from Pensacola to Homestead. Fresh Access Bucks is a program administered statewide by a Gainesville based non-profit, Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Inc. The Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market is the 21st market in the program.

SNAP benefits can be used for any eligible food items at the market.  Currently twenty-five vendors at the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Market qualify to accept SNAP, with at least 5 eligible for the FAB program as well.

“It is a great partnership. The students are running the program for us – from creating the marketing materials to manning the EBT station at the Market on Saturdays,” said Julie Townsend, Executive Director of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority. “It is exciting to see FSC students engage with Downtown in this way. I think we will increase the awareness of the Market, and Downtown in general, on the FSC campus while providing a great service to the community.”

To kick start the program and for a limited time, the Market is also partnering with Citrus Connection to provide complimentary rides to the Market on Saturdays for EBT card holders through the Universal Access Program. When the barriers to access are removed, ridership increases. “We’ve watched the success of Polk State College and others who have partnered with transit. We want folks riding to Downtown,” said Townsend.

Program opening day is February 7, 2015, with a Citrus Connection ribbon cutting at 11:00 a.m. Enactus students are currently working on marketing materials, volunteer recruitment to staff the EBT booth and attracting more local farmers to the market.

“We were very excited when we first found out about the possibility of bringing Florida Organic Grower’s program to the Downtown Farmers Curb Market and for the opportunity for FSC to partner with LDDA. This is a great way to help expand business while providing a sustainable avenue to help improve the health of our community. This is exactly the kind of progress we would like to continue to see. We can’t wait to see where this takes us and the lasting difference we can make in Lakeland,” Julie Gladish, Senior at Florida Southern College and President of Enactus at Florida Southern College.

The Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market is open every Saturday (except the month of August) from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the 200 blocks of North Kentucky and East Bay Street. For more information visit


Learn how to Export with SBDC Trade Seminars

FSBDCN-LOGO-COLOR-800 pxThe Florida SBDC at University of South Florida hosts a comprehensive list of international trade-focused seminars for entrepreneurs interested in learning how to break into the export market.

Coming seminars (held at the SBDC offices at Port Tampa Bay) include:

International Trade Basics, Tuesday, Jan. 13

If you have a thriving domestic company, maybe it’s time to consider exporting to take your business to the next level. Companies that export grow faster, are more profitable and are less affected by downturns in domestic demand for their products and services. This course will provide you with a comprehensive overview on what it takes to go global.

Cost: $25

Selling to Latin America, Wednesday, Feb. 18

In this economy, improving sales can be a tough proposition. Maybe it is time to expand your customer base to Mexico, Central or South America? Get the insider tips and strategies on selling to this region, information on trade agreements, and how exporting is becoming easier to Latin America than ever before.

Cost: $25

Advanced International Trade Series, Wednesday, March 11

Like to go global, but not sure how to get there? Let the SBDC’s three-part Florida Export Series be your guide. We will put your business on the right path toward international growth and expansion. The Series will cover: steps for exporting success through proper trade planning; international business norms, protocol, and communicating across cultures; and documentation requirements and export financing options.

Cost: $120

Register for any international trade seminar online at


Visit Central Florida and UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service to Host Free Agritourism Seminar on November 12

Polk County Tourism & Sports Marketing (PCTSM) and the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service are partnering to host a free Agritourism seminar on Wednesday, November 12 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Lake Myrtle Sports Park, 2701 Lake Myrtle Park Rd, Auburndale, FL.  The seminar will include an overview of Polk County Agritourism, along with group and panel discussions. Lunch will be provided by PCTSM.

As agritourism continues to grow as a strong market in the tourism industry, PCTSM is partnering with UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service to share ideas and develop strategies for Polk County to further capitalize on this growing market. Topics on the seminar agenda include:

  • How does Central Florida Agritourism Stack up Against Statewide and National Trends? 
  • The Florida Agritourism Association: What does it do, why is it needed, and what is going on around the state? 
  • Current Central Florida Agritourism Operations: What are we doing now and where would we like to be in the future? 
  • How should we move forward in developing Agritourism in Central Florida?

Speakers and panel members include Mary Beth Henry from UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service; Ben Parks, President of the Florida Agritourism Association; Donna Smith of Corn Fusion in Lakeland and Retta Baucum of Lakeland Berries, with others to be added to the agenda as they are confirmed.

Polk County agritourism venues and industry partners are encouraged to attend. Contact Mary Beth Henry for more information at (863) 519-1049 and register online at


Florida Southern College hosts For the Love of Downtown 2 Economic Forum

Love of Downtown2Rick Baker, former mayor of St. Petersburg, will be the keynote speaker at Florida Southern College’s second annual real estate and economic forum.

Sponsored by the Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise at FSC, For the Love of Downtown 2 will be held from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Lake Mirror Auditorium. Cost is $40 per person until Oct. 24 and $45 per person after that.

The forum brings together realtors, lenders, lawyers, market analysts, and financial experts as they explore our economic environment, capital markets, market forecasting, and investor prospects. Mr. Baker, author of the recent book The Seamless City, will speak on the topic “Building a World Class Downtown and a Seamless City.” He was mayor of St. Petersburg from 2001 to 2010 and is currently director of the University of South Florida’s Innovation Partnerships program.

“We are pleased to have Rick Baker as our keynote speaker,” said Dr. Bill Rhey, dean of the Barnett School. “His accomplishments as mayor were truly impressive, and he has valuable insights on how business and government can work together to improve our cities’ lives.”

In addition, the forum will include presentations from Julie Townsend, executive director of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority; David Petr, president of the Central Florida Development Corp.; and Dr. Brian Nottage, managing director of JP Morgan Asset Management, who will speak on the topic “An Inside Look at the Real Estate Economy.”

A special presentation during the forum will honor Joe P. Ruthven, founder and president of The Ruthvens, a commercial real estate firm in Lakeland.

To register for the event or for more information, see or call 616-6458.