According to the US Bureau of Labor, between the years 2014 and 2018, which city led the nation in job creation?
Would you believe Orlando?
Yes, metro Orlando/Orange County/Central Florida led the nation in job creation for five straight years. That's a pretty impressive run for a region whose population ranks 63rd in the country. And despite a pandemic that crippled business everywhere, Central Florida continues to flourish.
What is the driving force behind this renaissance of business success?
All roads lead to an indoor miniature city inside the Fashion Square Mall in Orlando as a key component of this high ranking. There you will find the National Entrepreneur Center (NEC) in Orange County.
Launched in 2003, the NEC is a coaching and training facility for Central Florida entrepreneurs, with over 15,000 people per year receiving assistance on a myriad of business-related subjects. It's dedicated to the development, growth, and success of small businesses. Through a cooperative effort of a diverse group of organizations, it offers easy access to professional business assistance, quality educational programming, and practical industry expertise.
"No one in the country is doing that," said Jerry Ross, the President of NEC. "We have about 400 business seminars a year. Our resource partners are targeted to a variety of business needs. So there's something here for everybody, and most of it is free. That means they can visit with a coach and talk about the specifics of their business."
Ross prefers those wanting assistance from the NEC to come to its offices and see everything they offer.
"The best way to utilize the National Entrepreneur Center is to visit us," Ross said. "We have 16 nonprofit organizations all in one location, and all with a single mission - to help Central Florida businesses grow."
In 2011, the NEC relocated from its downtown offices to the Orlando Fashion Square Mall and built an award-winning indoor miniature city.
"We get about 200 walk-ins per month," he said. "The traffic in the mall is much greater than downtown. We got about 50 a month there. It makes us much more accessible to the public. And they didn't have to find a parking spot downtown. It really helped our walk-in traffic to be here at the mall."
Ross also recognizes that after the COVID-19 pandemic, people's habits changed, which made the idea of online training more accepted.
"Some folks find that getting here is difficult in person," he said. "And with COVID, there has been a great acceptance of technology for virtual coaching and virtual classroom education."
Because of this, the NEC and Orange County Government launched bizlinkorange.com, which is a virtual version of the NEC.
"It allows people that have a computer and an internet connection to access over 60 regional nonprofit organizations that want to help them grow their business."
It's the next step in reaching Central Florida businesses.
Ross highlighted several features on BizLink Orange that are getting the highest volume of use.
The business guide has everything you need to know for business owners and startups. The guides include valuable advice on topics like business financing, exporting and new markets, and even license and permit information.
Here, you can find and connect with regional business resources to help you start and grow your business.
Whether you are nurturing an idea for a new business or an experienced entrepreneur who could use a little guidance to hit that next level, a personal action plan will get you moving in the right direction for your business goals.
The more specific information you provide in your request, the better-suited resources can be:
There's even a calendar of events for the six-county region served by the NEC.
According to Ross, BizLink Orange had approximately 28,000 pageviews in its first four months online.
"I was restricted by real estate," Ross explains. "But BizLink Orange broke down those walls. Now we have 60 regional nonprofit organizations working together on one website. Other communities don't have that."
Ross is also quick to point out that they could not offer free training if not for the community of sponsors that fund the NEC.
"This is all funded by our local sponsors," he said. "I don't get state funding. I don't get federal funding. This is all paid for by our community. Disney, UCF, the City of Orlando, Orange County, the Orlando Magic, and the Orlando Utilities Commission [to name a few]."
Despite the success of the NEC, it still may seem surprising that Orlando/Orange County/Central Florida would be such a bountiful job-creating market, but not to Ross.
"That was a strategy that our community leaders, way back in 2003, came up with... a plan that meets businesses where they are and helps them grow. WalletHub just named us the number one place in America to start and grow a small business. And so we get national attention for supporting entrepreneurship and small business and good business for our community."
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here