North Brevard's proposed business incubator has its fans, but setup funding is hard to find
June 24, 2012
By Patrick Peterson
TITUSVILLE -- Across North Brevard, there are men and women dreaming of a new economic life.
They were once among the thousands employed in space or technology but now are among the thousands grappling with unemployment and hoping to find a way back to prosperity.
For many, that route begins in cluttered home workshops and in meetings with like-minded hopefuls. These are the entrepreneurs and tinkerers who believe their products, their gadgets could get them back to employment and their town back to where it once was.
But they admit there is one area they cannot simply invent: assistance in navigating the complicated world of startup companies, from business plans to venture capital.
“Someone could help me with my marketing and business aspects, while I continue to develop new antenna products,” said Greg O’Neill, a Titusville engineer laid off by DRS in November who used his experience designing satellite phone antennas to develop a new cell phone-based antenna that could make the devices more versatile.
For that help, O’Neill and others are urging Titusville, North Brevard’s biggest city, to come up with $250,000 to launch a business incubator that would be operated by the University of Central Florida and would help the Greg O’Neills of the area take their ideas from paper to job-creating entity.
“They’ve lived in sort of a government bubble for so long that dealing in the real world might be an issue,” said Glenn Anderson, a former Northrop Grumman engineer who, like O’Neill, is part of the Spacecoast Technical Network, a 200-member, Titusville-based group that has emerged as a leading advocate of an incubator.
Gordon Hogan, the director of UCF’s business incubation program, has met with Titusville leaders twice. With 10 incubators already operating around Central Florida, the university is offering to provide the city an incubator similar to its others, assuming someone can come up with that quarter of a million dollars and about $200,000 a year to keep it operating.
The university would do the rest, including hiring a manager and assistant and selecting the first entrepreneur occupants in a competitive process. The incubator would provide work space and the advice of business experts who coach the tenants.
O’Neill, 68, says he would be among the first applicants for the incubator, which many believe could lead a technology-oriented economic resurgence for Titusville and North Brevard.
Titusville government and business leaders say they like UCF’s plan for creating new businesses and an entrepreneurial culture in the city. Titusville’s unemployment has consistently been slightly higher than Brevard County’s, and it peaked at 14.6 percent in August 2011, the month after the last shuttle mission. The rate was in double digits for 33 straight months, falling to 9.9 percent in March.
“We don’t have a deal for an incubator today, but there is a full-court press,” Titusville’s Economic Development Director Laura Canady said. The mayor, city council members and some county officials say they’re interested, too. The challenge is finding money, and some officials have questions about what they would get for their money.
The buzz throughout the last years of the shuttle program was that some workers would leave the space center and start their own companies. But it was not that simple.
UCF, which has made multiple pitches to city leaders in recent months, says its incubators have spawned hundreds of businesses, including a tea company, a fundraising website for charities, a nanotechnology firm, and a company that collects and sells rainwater.
Those businesses have created thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact, according to a 2012 report commissioned by the Florida High Tech Corridor Council.
Full story available at:
April 12, 2009
“One-stop online shop”Business Facilities Magazine March 1, 2009
Tech Hubs ”Florida’s “Faces of Technology” Highlighted in florida.HIGH.TECH 2009
February 12, 2009