By Erika Webb
A second business incubator may open in Volusia County, this one on the west side. The Volusia County Council voted May 2 to award the contract for a feasibility study to Sanibel-based Greenwood Consulting Group, which specializes in business incubators and small-business innovation research.
The budget for the study is $28,575.
Volusia's first business incubator, located at the Daytona Beach International Airport and one of nine managed by the University of Central Florida, is in its second year. It houses a variety of businesses, excluding retail.
Since 1999, the UCF Business Incubation Program has helped more than 300 emerging companies -- including more than 130 current clients -- create more than $500 million in annual revenue and more than 3,200 new jobs with an average salary of $59,000, according to the program's website.
Connie Bernal, site manager for the incubator, said once the feasibility study is complete, UCF will help build and manage the second incubator.
"We want an independent consultant to study the regions and variables because that is going to help us to know what city is the best location to have an incubator," Ms. Bernal said.
The variables to consider are other businesses in the region, demographics and entrepreneurial activity.
Ms. Bernal said the consultant will advise county leaders as to the most favorable area, and the economic development staff will look for a building site or an existing facility to improve for a second incubator.
"With that, we know that the business incubator will be successful," she said. "You want to be sure you did your homework and the more knowledgeable you are about the area, the more likely you are to be successful. We don't want any chance of failure."
UCF's funding partners include Volusia County and Florida High Tech Corridor.
During the May 2 State of the County Address, Council Vice Chair Joyce Cusack called Volusia's business incubator a "national leader in business incubator programs."
"By the end of last year, 13 companies were Incubator clients, and more than 35 new jobs were created. Several of these client companies have already set up shop in our community," Ms. Cusack said. "We are thrilled with its success, and would like to see more businesses that are just starting out benefit from these support services."
The most common goals of incubation programs are creating jobs in a community, enhancing a community's entrepreneurial climate, retaining businesses in a community, building or accelerating growth in a local industry and diversifying local economies, according to the National Business Incubation Association's website.
"To lay the groundwork for a successful incubation program, incubator developers must first invest time and money in a feasibility study," the NBIA reported. "An effective feasibility study will help determine whether the proposed project has a solid market, a sound financial base and strong community support -- all critical factors in an incubator's success."
Greenwood Consulting uses its proprietary model to identify a community's strengths and weaknesses in terms of supporting a successful incubator. The company has performed more than 50 feasibility studies for technology and mixed-use incubators and incubator networks, according to its website.
While employed at the Los Alamos Economic Development Corporation in New Mexico, consultants Gail and Jim Greenwood hosted the First National Incubator Conference in 1984, were involved with LAEDC's formation of one of the first incubators in the Southwest U.S. in 1985 and managed two LAEDC mixed-use incubators for 11 years.
They were elected to the NBIA board of directors, and have created and taught NBIA courses and conference sessions for incubator developers and managers.
"GCGI is a strong believer in the economic and community development value of a well-organized and executed incubator program," the website states. "We also believe that incubators are not a panacea for every economic woe of a community or region."
Greenwood Consulting has conducted more than 80 projects from Alaska to Florida and Canada -- including feasibility studies, business plans, design critiques and reviews of operating incubators.
"The Volusia County Council has once again demonstrated their support for entrepreneurs," said Volusia County Economic Development Manager Robert Ehrhardt. "The feasibility study that the County Council agreed to fund is designed to assess the entrepreneurial pool in West Volusia County. We look forward to reviewing that report."