Editor’s Note | October

Mark Singletary

By: Mark Singletary

There are people working hard in Gainesville to make things a bit better for area residents that want to start a new business or expand an existing business. It’s a really exciting time. There are challenges, of course, but in the end these efforts are about creating new jobs, potentially lots of new jobs.

The Gainesville Area Innovation Network or GAIN is the first, and now oldest, organization in Florida focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. Its website is the fastest growing social network in the state for entrepreneurs, scientists, students and innovators.

This month GAIN is hosting an event called the GAIN Shootout that will offer start-up businesses the chance to compete for cash and prizes.

The event will be held the on October 26 at the Harn Museum of Art and it’s a chance for would be innovators to make a pitch to potential investors and hopefully walk away with a plan for the future.

These presentations are taking place all across the country. Helping would be business owners with coaching and mentoring is an emotional investment in ideas that seems to have a quick, measurable payback. Business incubators and investors like to associate with great ideas and innovators that can communicate their plans.

The return on investment is economic and psychological. Communities that develop a reputation for economic incubation are attracting talented young professionals and the investors willing to put seed money to work on good ideas and good business plans.

With proper coaching and mentoring, ideas become products. New products create jobs and jobs are good. So, if you enjoy watching bright people talk about their ideas or if you have a bundle of money that you’d like to invest, plan on going to the Shootout. It should be a nice party.

There are communities, right here in the Southeastern U.S. that have taken these types of events and turned them into festivals and big, big parties. I attended one week long entrepreneurial contest that attracted a crowd of 10,000. Hopefully, that’s a goal for GAIN.

About the same time the city of Gainesville’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee on Economic Competitiveness will be delivering a final report to the city commission hoping for a new way of dealing with City Hall. The committee has been working for several months, meeting with area residents hoping to streamline the process of getting the necessary permits to open a new business or build a new commercial facility.

The defining assumption that led to the creation of the committee was that dealing with City Hall is confusing and difficult.

The timing for these two efforts is incredible.

Imagine all the hard work necessary to come up with a new idea for a new business, working tirelessly to secure funding, find the right spot, find the right people and then get so frustrated by the process of getting permission to build that you give up or take your business to another city.

But, it sounds like there is hope. The committee’s plan is to make city hall more customer friendly. They want to create an environment that isn’t intimidating; they actually want to make it inviting and non-threatening. Those challenges seem solvable, but only if the city employees want to make it happen, and that happens when city employees feel like stakeholders in the process, as well.

That’s the biggest challenge and best outcome for this entire exercise.

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