By: Beth Kirkland, CEcD, Executive Director, Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County, Inc.
Following last week’s Annual Chamber Community Conference, this newspaper challenged business and community leaders to stop dreaming about being a city like Austin, Texas, or Spartanburg, S.C., and start trumpeting our considerable assets and ramp up efforts to make our own name as a “prize relocation destination for businesses and citizens.”
We could not agree more.
It makes sense to look for successful communities that share a similar vision and have achieved good, smart growth, but as the editorial rightly pointed out, we have plenty to work with here — including a recent designation as a Top 10 City for Millennials (the generation born between 1982 and 2000.)
The Economic Development Council of Tallahassee Leon County (EDC) is glad to be a part of a coordinated effort to nurture an environment of growth and innovation by building and communicating an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” of services and technical support that places Tallahassee ahead of the curve.
In fact, we already have all the elements here – true entrepreneurs, intellectual capital, a flexible and motivated talent pool, financial capital, advocates and champions and a resource and support network that would make any “dream” city jealous.
As part of that support system, the EDC joins an alphabet soup of effective organizations such as the SBDC (Small Business Development Center), JMI (The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship), LCRDA (Leon County Research & Development Authority – Innovation Park), TAG (Town & Gown project), and KCCI (Knight Creative Communities Institute ) — each with its own resources, funding streams and connections to fuel entrepreneurship and innovation.
And although each has its own organizational goals, they are ready and willing to be part of a cohesive ecosystem of services and technical support for the researchers, business students and talented workforce of our region who consistently emerge from the fabric of Tallahassee with new products and services.
These entrepreneurs are seeking access to early stage executives, c-level managers (CEOs, CFOs, etc.), financing, peer networking groups, incubators and accelerators, and our Entrepreneurial Support Organizations (ESOs) are making that happen. Our community is very fortunate to have so many options for entrepreneurs, and no matter which organization is approached first, the well-established system of referrals and cooperation results in the best matches for the individual.
Two recent developments are very exciting for our entrepreneurial community. First, the EDC’s Entrepreneurial Excellence Program has graduated 34 companies representing 58 individuals in its first year. Five companies are currently profitable, one was able to close an international contract, another has moved to a high-tech facility at FSU, many are benefitting from mentoring relationships and some are currently being evaluated for angel and venture funding. None of this would be possible without a functioning ecosystem.
We also are working toward the designation of certified economic gardening community through the statewide GrowFL program and a grant from the City of Tallahassee. This designation means we have an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is functioning in support of second stage companies – those with 10 to 99 employees, between $1 million and $50 million in annual revenue and have a proven business model.
Properly marketed, coordinated entrepreneurial assets will attract entrepreneurs to our community and increase connectivity in angel and venture capital networks for years to come.