Economic Developers Brief Legislators on GrowFL Program

Thanks to the Florida Economic Gardening Institute and its statewide program GrowFL, second-stage companies are getting the technical assistance they need to advance to the next level.
March 10, 2010 - PRLog -- Economic gardening technical assistance programs funded in a 2009 special session are beginning to bear fruit and should be expanded, leaders from Florida’s economic development community told members of the House Economic Development and Community Affairs Council today.

“Though only in its fifth month, this economic development tool has proven to be a tremendous success to business,” said Amy Evancho, president of the Florida Economic Development Council (FEDC), a 450-member statewide association of economic development professionals working in both the public and private sector to advance Florida’s economy.

The Florida Economic Development Act created a $1.5 million fund for economic gardening, which focuses on support of second-stage companies that have grown past the startup stage.  In November the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development selected a team at the University of Central Florida (UCF) to create the Florida Economic Gardening Institute to administer a statewide technical assistance program for second-stage growth companies.

UCF’s Dr. Tom O’Neal, associate vice president of Research and Commercialization and program administrator of the Florida Economic Gardening Institute, told legislators that in just its first 120 days his team created a statewide system it calls GrowFL ( and has:

    •  Established a robust Web site to facilitate an application process;
    •  Rolled the program out statewide at a variety of events and through an aggressive publicity program;
    •  Engaged more than 200 companies and processed more than 100 online applications;
    •  Accepted 35 companies into the technical assistance program;
    •  Deployed an experienced “Jump Start” team of technical assistance professionals;
    •  Begun delivering services to the first 25 companies while continuing to add more to the system; and,
    •  Initiated selection and training of a resident Florida Technical Assistance Team.

There are 5,000 companies in Florida that fit the specific criteria of second-stage growth companies.  These for-profit, privately held businesses employ between 10 and 50 people, generate $1 million to $25 million in annual revenue, demonstrate growth in number of employees and gross revenues during three of the past five years, and qualify for the tax refund program for qualified target industry businesses.

“Our EDC is 100 percent behind this program.  We have designated this ‘The Era of the Entrepreneur’ because there is unquestionable evidence that job creation comes from these second-stage growth companies,” said Collier County Economic Development Council President Tammie Nemecek.  “In our community, the work of the GrowFL Program has already begun to make a difference.    This is the bread and butter of economic development.”

O’Neal told the Council, “These are the companies that economists estimate will create 40 percent of Florida’s job growth over the next five years.  The GrowFL program has the potential to create 1,500 jobs over the next 18 months alone based on the preliminary projections supplied by the companies enrolled in the program.

“Further, it is estimated that these companies have the potential to increase sales by $200 million over the same 18 months.  Those are incredible numbers when considered in the context of the relatively small investment needed to create and run this program.”

GrowFL’s Technical Assistance Team provides companies understanding of and access to Information Tools, including:

    •  Database Research,
    •  Search Engine Optimization,
    •  Geographic Information Systems and
    •  Network Mapping Social Media.

They also help with Decision-Making tools that include:

    •  Strategy Analysis,
    •  Management Team Temperament,
    •  Capital Referrals and
    •  Labor Referrals.

“Beyond what our one-to-one technical assistance program will do for the 300 companies selected this year, our outreach will touch another thousand companies through networking events, seminars and outreach, CEO forums and roundtables, financial networking events and workshops, and online education programs,” said O’Neal.

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The Florida Economic Gardening Institute was created by the 2009 Florida Legislature as the Economic Gardening Technical Assistance Pilot Program to stimulate investment in Florida’s economy by providing technical assistance for expanding businesses in the state. Qualified companies must be engaged in the following sectors: Manufacturing; Finance & Insurance Services; Wholesale Trade; Information Industries; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Management Services; and, Administrative & Support Services. Additional information is available at
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