From District 2 Orange County Commissioner Rod Love
Since 1999, the University of Central Florida (UCF)’s Incubation Program has been helping early-stage companies develop into financial stable, high-impact enterprises by providing resources and services that facilitate smarter, faster growth.
Last week, the Apopka City Council heard a presentation on UCF’s Business Incubation Program by Mr. Jim Hitt, the City’s Community Development Director. The Program began in the City of Apopka in 2012 when Apopka purchased the old Barnhills restaurant site at the Northeast corner of Main St. (U.S. 441) and S. McGee Ave. The 8,000 sq. ft. building provided space for new clients, small meeting spaces and a larger training room. 1 of 5 remote locations for the Program, the UCF Incubator in Apopka is the newest remote location and provides facilitation for business and economic development.
The services that the Program provides includes:
- On-site business coaching and mentoring
- Entrepreneurship curriculum, seminars
- Access to community leaders and an exceptional advisory board
- Shared resources: Reception area, conference rooms, a training room, business, library, high-speed internet, work/break rooms, and office equipment
- Networking opportunities
- Access to interns/students
- Adaptable space
- Flexible lease
- Off-Site client availability
- Women and minority contractor certification education and training
In addition, the UCF Incubation Program offers 3 different programs designed to help businesses at different stages: Pre-Incubation, Incubation and Soft Landing. For more information on these programs and the resources that the Incubator provides, residents can go to the following link: https://incubator.ucf.edu/programs/.
The Apopka City Center Development Agreement was approved in July 2016. Due to the 1.1 acre site that the UCF Incubator currently occupies being included in the City Center project, the site will have to be vacated within the next 60 days in order to construct turn lanes needed at that intersection. AdventHEALTH (formerly Florida Hospital) has graciously agreed to provide a 5,000 sq. ft. building at 205 N. Park Ave. on the campus of the “old” hospital on the north end of downtown Apopka. This site will be able to provide about 12 offices/rooms for the clients and UCF to continue this valuable economic development program.
At the conclusion of the presentation, City of Apopka’s Community Development Department proposed as next steps to: Leverage the City’s partnership with UCF to seek additional resources, opportunities and support; partner with the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce and the business community to offer programs, events and educational resources to non-Incubator clients located within the Apopka area; seek and apply for Economic Development Association (EDA) funding; search and secure a long-term facility to house the UCF Business Incubator; and seek additional support from Orange County Government.
A major theme that came out of the presentation was to not only bring businesses to the Apopka area but also give them the incentive to do business locally upon graduating from the Program, thus promoting more economic development. Given the Incubator’s work thus far in helping businesses and potential to attract more businesses to come to the Apopka area, the City Council agreed to help fund the UCF Incubator location in Apopka for moving ($5,000) and renovation ($45,000) expenses for the new location. In addition, with the total cost being $180,000 for first-year operations, the City is encouraging a partnership with Orange County Government to cover half of the cost ($90,000).
Given the UCF Incubator’s potential to encourage more economic development and business retention in the Apopka area, I believe this program to be a worthwhile endeavor in producing results for the community.