In a land where buzzwords like “incubator,” “innovation” and “entrepreneur” are swirling, the “neighborly” Santa Fe CIED is central to keeping the American Dream alive.
In Gainesville, it takes a caring business community to raise an entrepreneur—and that community’s town square just might be Santa Fe College’s Center for Innovation and Economic Development.
One of its new poster children is 25-year-old Aaron Gibbs, who has found a niche cleaning the growing number of solar panels as the head of PVB Enterprises. But the incubator isn’t his only help. In addition to getting a boost from CIED, Gibbs is learning about the solar industry from Barry Jacobson, co-owner of Solar Impact.
“Aaron keeps my faith in the American Dream alive,” Jacobson says. “He’s taking all the right steps. I’m glad to help him, because our customers are coming to us with help cleaning the solar panels we install.”
Gibbs sees things the other way around. He says that it’s people like Jacobson who make his success as a small business owner possible.
“People within the community want to help you,” Gibbs says. “As long as I do what I say I’ll do, things will work out.”
CIED Plays Different Role
Although it’s considered a business incubator, CIED goes beyond the role of a typical incubator by focusing well beyond its resident companies, says Dug Jones, Santa Fe’s assistant vice president for economic development.
In addition to providing office space for eight resident companies in its building, at 530 W University Ave., CIED helps another 30 companies or nonprofits—or “associate members,” which participate in its workshop and mentoring programs but don’t have offices there. Resident companies pay $310 monthly, and associates pay $100.
Santa Fe is even negotiating with the City of Gainesville to expand its entrepreneurship help by taking over management of the Gainesville Technology Enterprise Center, previously managed by the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
If Santa Fe and the city can reach an agreement, adding GTEC, at 2153 SE Hawthorne Road, will expand the help that the college can provide start-up businesses, Jones says.
“We’ll be able to fill the gap between what CIED offers and what UF’s incubators offer,” he says. “We’ll be in a better position to serve the incubation and entrepreneurship training needs of east Gainesville.”
CIED serves different needs than the two University of Florida incubators (the Florida Innovation Hub and the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator). While the UF incubators focus on high-tech businesses, often based on UF research, CIED focuses on service businesses, nonprofit organizations and firms with technologies that don’t require access to laboratory space.