Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Business

Dade City business incubator joins a booming trend

DADE CITY — As the owner of a fledgling home-based business, Kellye Dash liked being able to work in her PJs but found productivity a challenge.

"You feel so isolated," said Dash, a former IT employee who quit in 2012 to turn her part-time side business into a full-time venture. Though she liked being her own boss, she also missed bouncing ideas off colleagues.

So when she learned about SMARTstart, Pasco County's new business incubator in Dade City, the Wesley Chapel resident couldn't wait to apply.

Her business, the Busy Buddy, was among the first seven firms accepted into the program, which opened its first office last fall in the Dade City Business Center.

The 2,500-square-foot incubator provides office space, free Wi-Fi and meeting space for clients. But more important, Dash said, it offers training in how to run and grow a business.

Through workshops, conducted in a room aptly decorated in a garage motif, she learned how to interpret body language, how to negotiate and how to market her business, which provides a host of support services, from social media management to report preparation and accounting. Like the other members, Dash also was assigned a mentor.

"I can bounce anything off someone," Dash said, referring to SMARTstart director Krista Covey as "my angel."

Covey, an employee of the Pasco Economic Development Council, was tapped last year to lead the charge as Pasco made its first foray into business incubators.

"They're like my baby chicks," Covey said of the seven members, who were on hand for an open house Friday to show off the now-filled quarters to potential new members — and donors.

Members must come up with a six-month business plan to be accepted into the program. They also must be either new, relocating or transitioning from home and seeking to grow. Priority is given to businesses that build on local strengths, have high employment potential, export products or services, replace imported products or services, provide new products or services or deliver them in a unique way and that meet unsatisfied community needs. Those approved may stay up to two years and then are re-evaluated.

"We're not here to provide free office space," Covey said. "Our goals are to create jobs and economic development."

An idea snowballs

The EDC laid the groundwork for the program several years ago when it established the Pasco Enterprise Network. It combined a variety of assistance agencies so that entrepreneurs would find "no wrong door" when seeking help.

The program got off the ground with a $100,000 donation last year from Pasco County government, along with $50,000 that the EDC collected in private money. The Dade City Commission kicked in $50,000. The Dade City Business Center provides discounted rent and utilities.

Covey said the services have been in high demand. Already she is searching for more space in Dade City. Recently, the EDC announced the opening of a west Pasco location in a city-owned former post office building at 6347 Grand Blvd. in New Port Richey. Economic development officials would also like to open an incubator someday in the Zephyrhills area.

The local incubators join three already in the Tampa Bay area. The rise of so many at once causes some to ask whether incubators are a fad and whether you can have too many.

"Sure, there can always be too much of a good thing," said John Lax, a faculty member at Saint Leo University's business school and adviser to its student-run consulting firm. "However, if we look at opportunities and growth in Pasco, I think it can easily support incubator expansion. The nice thing about the SMARTstart style model is that instead of a large, very expensive centralized incubator, we have smaller, very localized facilities that are not only closer to the potential clients but also use resources very efficiently."

The incubator advances a goal suggested in the recent report from the Urban Land Institute, a national panel of experts that visited the county last year. The panelists urged the county to work with existing businesses, most of them with fewer than nine employees, to help them expand and create jobs.

That opinion was echoed by Daniel Scott, an entrepreneur who helped start the Gazelle Lab incubator at USF St. Petersburg and teaches entrepreneur studies there.

Scott said diversifying economic development spending and building more home-grown jobs might offer "a more sustainable and long-term strategy than simply acquiring new jobs from elsewhere."

Pasco County Commissioner Ted Schrader, who served as the county liaison to the EDC when the incubator idea was developed, said the big outside employers are important, but they can be fickle.

"We probably focused too much on the big fish as opposed to the entry-level business operator," he said. "If you take a look at it, small business is clearly the economic backbone of Pasco County. It makes sense to give them the help they need to be able to move their ideas and resources out of the garage."

Besides, said citrus farmer Schrader, whose great-grandparents started with a single orange tree, look at electronics giant Apple. Steve Jobs "started it in his parents' garage."

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Ken Buzzie is the owner of Computers Etc. in the Dade City SMARTstart business incubator. Due to incorrect information supplied to the Times, a story Sunday listed another employee.

Comments
Tech Data sending a record 700 employees to march in Pride Parade

Tech Data sending a record 700 employees to march in Pride Parade

Among the marching bands and twirlers at Saturday’s St. Pete Pride Parade, one major sponsor, Tech Data, is sending by far a record number of employees — more than 700 at last count — to march in Florida’s largest gay pride parade.The parade, which d...
Updated: 2 hours ago
A valet at this South Tampa Publix will park your car as you shop

A valet at this South Tampa Publix will park your car as you shop

TAMPA — Publix shoppers in South Tampa who hate circling the lot for parking can now toss their keys to a valet.The Publix at Dale Mabry and Neptune started testing a free valet service last week that could expand to more stores. Spokesman Brian West...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sign to report employees not speaking English at doughnut shop creates a stir

Sign to report employees not speaking English at doughnut shop creates a stir

A sign asking customers at a Dunkin’ Donuts store in Baltimore to report employees who were heard not speaking English has set off a controversy.The sign, according tothe Baltimore Sun, would offer coupons to customers who reported workers at a dough...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Florida Bankers Association recognizes Bill Klich with award

Florida Bankers Association recognizes Bill Klich with award

Former Tampa Bay banking executive Bill Klich was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Bankers Association last week at an annual meeting in Palm Coast.Klich, 73, has a strong reputation with more than four decades of commercial ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Jeff Vinik-backed construction material firm headed to Port Tampa Bay

Jeff Vinik-backed construction material firm headed to Port Tampa Bay

TAMPA — With $3 billion in construction on the boards, Water Street Tampa will need a lot of concrete, so a company whose largest investor is Jeff Vinik is moving to Port Tampa Bay to begin importing fly ash, a component of concrete.Spartan Materials...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Drugs at your doorstep: CVS will deliver prescriptions to your home

Drugs at your doorstep: CVS will deliver prescriptions to your home

CVS Health will make prescription deliveries nationwide to accommodate the heightened expectations of convenience from consumers. The nation’s second-largest drugstore chain says it also will make home deliveries of other items, like allergy medicine...
Updated: 7 hours ago
St. Petersburg residents will see higher water, sanitation bills

St. Petersburg residents will see higher water, sanitation bills

ST. PETERSBURG — Residents can expect their water and sanitation bills to increase between $7 and $11 starting in October.That represents an average of a 7-percent increase. Customers who use an average of 4,000 gallons a month, including reclaimed w...
Published: 06/19/18
Spectrum’s new service will eventually increase the cost for TV

Spectrum’s new service will eventually increase the cost for TV

Spectrum’s new all-digital service is set to bring more high definition, faster internet speeds and expanded on-demand offerings — but it also comes with higher costs for some of its TV customers in Tampa Bay. Each TV that receives service from Spect...
Published: 06/19/18
Medical manufacturer to add 116 jobs in Pasco County expansion

Medical manufacturer to add 116 jobs in Pasco County expansion

NEW PORT RICHEY — TouchPoint Medical, an engineering and manufacturer of high-tech hospital equipment, plans to put its global headquarters into a 125,000-square-foot industrial and corporate office building in Pasco County.Tuesday morning, county co...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Business digestBrieflyHOSPITALS RECEIVE AWARD: Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and Medical Center of Trinity were recipients of Healthgrades 2018 Patient Safety Excellence Award, a designation that recognizes superior performance of hospitals t...
Updated: 11 hours ago