Florida’s 'economic gardening’ helps a Jacksonville business
December 12, 2009
By Kevin Turner
Teresa Myers, chief financial officer of Myers-Seth Pump Inc., says she hopes a new state program can help the Jacksonville-based industrial pump manufacturer and rental firm through a rough patch wrought by the recession.
Myers-Seth Pump has had about 17 employees since 1991, but had to lay off six this year, she said. She wants to put more resources into marketing to help drum up more business so she can hire employees back, but doesn’t have the resources to do so, she said.
“Our business is ready to grow,” she said. “Our employees are really looking forward to taking our business to the next level. We want to expand more quickly than we could on our own.”
Myers found out about GrowFL, a state “economic gardening” pilot initiative designed to help small businesses that are already beyond the initial startup stage, from the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, she said. According to the JEDC Web site, the initiative was born out of Gov. Charlie Crist’s economic stimulus program and is designed to help small businesses obtain capital, train employees and hire new ones.
Myers found out her company was accepted into the GrowFL program on Friday and said she hopes that the services the program provides will help her company with marketing goals and growing anew.
“We know we’re capable of that,” she said.
University of Central Florida associate professor Tom O’Neal is director of GrowFL. He said the initiative is designed to give small businesses access to experts in various fields who will provide technical services such as information tools, database research, Internet search engine optimization, strategy analysis, social network strategies and labor referrals — services Myers said she hopes will help Myers-Seth Pump.
“I did some research and found that incubation companies [small businesses assisted at startup] mature at a faster rate, but when they graduate, they are falling out at the same rate as everyone around them,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal said it’s important to have programs available for companies that are beyond the startup phase, or “second stage” companies, because those growth companies are creating the most jobs in the country. To be eligible for GrowFL, a small business has to be a private, Florida-based firm that has 10 to 50 employees and generates from $1 million to $25 million. The companies also have to have had growth in revenues and employment in three of the last five years.
GrowFL was created by the Florida Economic Gardening Institute, and it will use $1.5 million in Legislature-approved funds in its pilot year, which began last month. O’Neil said it’s designed to assist 300 small businesses. So far, 13 companies have been accepted into the program, including Myers-Seth.
“What this will do will vary by company, but it all has to do with increasing sales and revenues,” he said.
According to a GrowFL release, the Florida Economic Gardening Institute was created by the Legislature this year and is modeled after a program pioneered in Colorado, and features a strategic partnership with the Michigan-based Edward Lowe Foundation, which is to provide business specialists to help GrowFL recipient businesses.Companies may apply for the program at its Web site, www.growfl.com.