Economic gardening is nurturing growing firms
By Beth Kirkland
June 20, 2010
One of the best parts of my job is working with successful entrepreneurs who have taken an idea or followed a dream and turned it into a viable business.
Our region is full of those kinds of stories, and we are proud to have often played a role in their success. Whether it is helping find tax credits through our Enterprise Zone or lining up training dollars through the First Focus on Local Business initiative, the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County is involved in helping small-business ventures thrive and grow.
Small businesses that have made it past the startup stage now have a unique opportunity to see if they have what it takes to get to the next level. These "second stage" companies, defined as maturing businesses that have between 10 and 50 employees and between $1 million and $25 million in annual revenue, are now eligible to gain significant assistance from an initiative called GrowFL.
Formally known as the Florida Economic Gardening Institute, GrowFL is funded by the Florida Legislature and partners with a number of organizations — including our EDC — to provide free resources and decision-making tools typically only available to larger companies.
Florida's new entrepreneurial strategy of "economic gardening" is to find and nurture the idea people who are leading homegrown, second-stage companies, helping them become significant economic drivers for their communities and the entire state. These companies get free access to a team of highly trained and experienced analysts who function not as consultants but as an extension of each business. As GrowFL puts it, they should be considered "elite staff at your disposal to take your company to the next level."
While there may not be a lot of $25 million companies in Tallahassee, there are lots of $1 million companies that could be fundamentally changed by taking advantage of such an opportunity.
Such was the case with several local success stories, including LearnSomething, Aegis Business Technologies and Notary Public Underwriters, all of which have received assistance through GrowFL that resulted in substantial growth and increased profits.
In our area, a formation of CEO roundtables is under way, allowing for owners, CEOs and presidents to share their management challenges and problem-solving ideas through confidential and structured sessions led by a trained facilitator. The kickoff of these strategic roundtables is June 30 at the Florida State University Panama City Campus at 4 p.m. CDT.
Coordinated by the EDC, the roundtables are free to participants through funding by GrowFL and CEO Nexus in partnership with the Edward Lowe Foundation. CEOs of second-stage companies in Northwest Florida are urged to attend. For information or to see if your business qualifies, contact the EDC's Kara Palmer at (850) 521-3117.For more on the GrowFL program, visit www.growfl.com. The EDC's site is www.taledc.com.