Thriving businesses are truly building a thriving community as the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce’s community-wide initiative, Innovation Gainesville (iG), brought together over 50 realtors for a Real Estate Roundtable. The roundtable last Thursday at the University of Florida’s Innovation Hub (iHub) provided local realtors a glimpse at the very bright future of Gainesville and the ever-increasing attractiveness to outside businesses and investors, as well as graduating students.
“What we have going on in Gainesville is very, very special,” said David Day, Director of the University of Florida’s Office of Technology Licensing and co-Chair of Innovation Gainesville. “We are progressing this community and raising the standard of living.”
What is so special about Gainesville?
Through the economic development initiative of Innovation Gainesville, decision makers and leaders in the business community are on the same page and working congruently to not only develop small businesses and entrepreneurs in Gainesville, but are simplifying the process for outside companies to come and grow in Gainesville.
The Innovation Hub which opened in October of 2011, is just the beginning of a major development, right between the UF and downtown Gainesville, better known as Innovation Square. As companies graduate from the iHub, more are moving in. The Hub offers 44 offices, which are all currently booked, and 22 labs, some of which remain available.
What separates the Innovation Hub apart from the standard incubators?
Jane Muir, Director of the Florida Innovation Hub at UF, says that the Hub sets itself apart from others by raising the percentage of successful startups because of the “collision” between young entrepreneurs and resident partners in one setting. For example, if a young entrepreneur has a question or concerns regarding their startup company, businesses who have already been working in the Hub are willing to helping solve these questions and act as mentors.
“Eighty percent of typical startups will fail in the first five years of existence,” said Muir. “However, 87 percent of those remaining companies that make it past five years will remain successful businesses,” making their early, developmental years paramount. According to Muir, the positive economic impact in Gainesville will be substantial as well. “Seventy-eight percent of incubating companies remain in the city that they incubated in,” she said.
The Next Step
Set to break ground in December 2012, the Infusion Technology Center at UF Innovation Square will offer incubating companies the next step in their development. Designed to accommodate any kind of company, the Infusion Technology Center will provide the space and resources to allow companies to develop and grow.
“When I explain the partnership of our Chamber, University of Florida, iG, with these projects, people are just blown away,” said Nick Banks, Managing Director of Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group. “We are offering not just office space, but an entire ecosystem.”
The Infusion Technology Center will take approximately 12-14 months to construct and will provide an estimated 150,000 square feet of office space.
The Infusion building is just another step, as INSPIREation Hall is scheduled to begin construction in the Spring 2013, which will be the first housing development in the U.S. to be designed from the ground up as an entrepreneurial incubator. The building will provide students with the environment to develop into a successful entrepreneur while studying at UF.
Through the Innovation Gainesville Angel Network, developing companies are able to secure capital investment, integral to successful growth. Since its inception, 18 companies (six in Gainesville and four more in Florida) have already secured investment and 15 investors have signed up. Investor Events are also in the works for 2013 and will be similar to the popular television show, “Shark Tank,” in which entrepreneurs present their businesses to a group of investors in hopes of securing financial investment.
The key to any business’ success is the talent of the existing workforce. In Gainesville, with one of the top universities across the nation in UF and the technologically training-strong Santa Fe College, Gainesville has talent in spades. The perception that students come to Gainesville for their education and leave upon graduation is one that is quickly fading.
“We are changing the culture to be that when you graduate, you will have a job available for you in Gainesville,” said Ed Poppell of the University of Florida Development Corporation. “And if you leave to New York, San Francisco or wherever, you will remember what was so great in Gainesville, and we will welcome you back.”
With the existence of the iHub, the scheduled construction of the Infusion Technology Center and Entrepreneurial Dormitory, and the community-wide initiative to create an entire ecosystem capable of growing and sustaining these companies, the future of the Gainesville area is very bright.