By Alan Byrd
Last week, opinion writer Greg Jackson showcased the UCF Business Incubator in an extremely negative light, saying it was an example of how the Apopka CRA has failed its citizens.
Unfortunately, before asking a series of questions publicly, the writer did not call the Incubator to ask the questions privately. If he did, he would have found out this investment in businesses by the CRA is paying off, creating companies and spurring economic development.
In 2012, the city’s CRA partnered with the UCF Business Incubation Program to open a location in the heart of the city. After all, the UCF Business Incubation Program has shown tremendous success throughout the region. It is directly responsible for the creation of 2,364 jobs from 2014-16 alone. Its total impact to the economy of Central Florida was $725 million. Its client companies had direct sales of $694 million.
Apopka, rightfully so, believed this could be a way to kick-start its economic development. The UCF Business Incubation Program would provide a place where select companies could receive all the tools they need to grow significantly. It provides office space and expert consultants. It provides an atmosphere of collaboration. It breeds successful businesses.
The city did invest approximately $1,000,000 into the program, for an average of approximately $170,000 per year over six years starting in 2012. Over the course of the Incubator’s history, the city has collected approximately $1.4 million in taxes, a “profit” of $400,000.
It’s not just the city that sees an increase in revenue. Annually, the businesses involved in the Incubation Program spend approximately $700,000 for goods and services in the Apopka community. Those are dollars being spent on accountants and banking, marketing and staffing, restaurants and retail shops and much more.
In total, for every $1 the CRA invests in the Incubator, the city, and local businesses receive $5.50.
The UCF Business Incubation Program has clearly provided a return on its investment, not just for the city coffers, but for businesses throughout Apopka.
But, Jackson specifically asked if anyone could tell him the number of jobs created or the number of businesses that have been helped.
Absolutely. Those are all numbers provided to the city every six months.
According to its June report, since its inception, 107 jobs have been created in the Apopka area from Incubator companies. There have been 20 companies that have utilized the services directly, of which eight are current companies and three are working to meet the requirements to start their incubation process.
Those companies are growing. The current client companies had combined revenues of $2.1 million for just the first six months of this year alone. That increased more than 50 percent over the same time period a year ago.
Without an Apopka Incubator, those companies may not exist. They may not have grown. They wouldn’t be spending $700,000 in the Apopka community each year. They wouldn’t have revenues of $2.1 million.
The biggest issue facing incubator clients today is where to headquarter their business after graduating. Currently, a lack of office space in the Apopka area means graduating companies must look outside the area for a location. They want to stay, but the office market has not caught up to the Incubator’s success
While the value of the CRA program can be debated, one thing that is not up for debate is that UCF Business Incubation Program provides a return on its investment. It is helping Apopka businesses grow. It is helping grow our community’s economy. It is doing exactly what a CRA should do, provide opportunities and economic growth for its citizens.
Note: The Apopka Voice is a client of The Apopka UCF Business Incubator.
Alan Byrd is the president of Alan Byrd & Associates. The UCF Business Incubation Program is a client of the firm.