Quick, what business is located at 325 South McGee Avenue?
Drive west on SR436 up the hill where it merges with 441 and look to your right… in the blink of any eye, you pass it. Go east out of town past the Highland Manor and it’s an afterthought to your left. You may remember it better when it was Barnhills Restaurant, but for almost five years 325 South McGee Avenue has quietly become the hub of business in Apopka.
Give up? It’s the home of the UCF Business Incubator – Apopka.
The UCF Business Incubator – Apopka means business
Back in April of 2012, the Incubator opened its doors, and since then has nurtured new businesses that have generated revenues well into the millions.
It originated as a partnership between the City of Apopka and the University of Central Florida (UCF) to assist in furthering Apopka’s economic development goals. The idea is to address local business development and entrepreneurship needs with the long-term goal of facilitating new jobs and economic development opportunities for Apopka. The primary objective of the UCF Business Incubator in Apopka is to enable emerging businesses to accelerate their growth, and to create high impact jobs in the local community. Companies in the Incubation Program also contribute to the local economy directly by purchasing products and services from local Apopka businesses and indirectly through local tax revenues.
It’s a slow process that is hard to measure in a bottom line overview, however, in five years there are some impressive markers to take into account.
According to its January/2017 bi-annual report, Incubator companies spent nearly $400,000 with local businesses in 2016. This is money that went directly into the Apopka economy. The Business Incubation Program uses a software product called IMPLAN to calculate the economic impact of the Incubation Program from a tax perspective. The latest impact numbers are for 2014 and show the program returned $1.42 for every dollar invested. The IMPLAN report for 2015 is expected to show an even greater return based on the client companies job growth.
2016 Economic Impact
As of December 31, 2016, the Incubator has 11 onsite client companies in different stages of incubation. Incubator businesses have created over 100 jobs, and the total estimated revenue generated by the client companies in the last half of 2016 is $1.36 million.
The full-service incubator offers professional office space for emerging businesses while providing them with entrepreneurial training and services, including business growth support, management assistance, mentoring and coaching, marketing, financial analysis and access to capital, educational programs, professional referral networks, and a supportive environment to network with other small businesses. These key services and office support infrastructure are included in the all-inclusive fee which incubator companies pay.
And in Apopka, the Incubator has also become a place where the business community goes to meet.
According to Office Manager Leanne Fleischer, the Incubator holds well over 100 meetings and events there every year for businesses and organizations like Sam’s Club, the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce, McDonald’s, Homeowner Associations, the City of Apopka, and CONA. There was even a candidate forum at the Incubator last year during the City Commission elections.
“We let the community hold their meetings here for free,” said Fleischer. “We want this to be a resource for Apopka businesses.”