Saturday, February 24, 2018
Business

In Pasco, a new business incubator manager thinks big

Tampa Bay's case of business incubator fever continues with the opening in Pasco County of SMARTstart in Dade City to be run by newly named manager Krista Covey.

"We have big plans," promises Covey, 33, a former bank lender and a member of the Pasco Economic Development Council.

Covey joins the bevy of dynamic women who happen to oversee the region's major incubators, including Linda Olson at downtown Tampa's FirstWaVE Center, Tonya Elmore at Largo's Tampa Bay Innovation Center and others who help run USF's multiple incubators.

Pasco's economy seems to be in its jittery colt stage, eager to run with the big county horses but still seeking its footing. The business incubator is part of the county's rounding out of services, seeking to provide more local small business and start-up assistance to what Covey and others in economic circles see as a rising number of local technology start-ups and entrepreneurs.

The SMARTstart incubator is housed in the Dade City Business Center in 2,500 square feet with room for five separate offices, co-working space and a conference room.

Like its more established peers in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, the Pasco incubator will provide seminars, mentors and training with backing from Saint Leo University, the USF Small Business Development Center, USF Connect, the area community college, the Pasco Enterprise Network, Dade City (donating $100,000), the local chamber of commerce and the Economic Development Council, among other organizations.

Covey, just married, is busy this week adjusting to a new last name (she was Krista Hakes), a new job title and the recruiting of SMARTstart's first class of start-ups. That has not slowed her ambitious expansion agenda across Pasco.

"We'll have something in New Port Richey pretty soon," she says, and eventually sees a more substantial facility in the middle of Pasco.

Pasco already is home to a growing number of recent start-ups that range from Carvoyant (auto services) and JLS MedEquip (used veterinary equipment) in Odessa to KeriCure (wound care products) in Wesley Chapel.

Covey takes on the incubator challenge with a financial background that includes helping create Pasco's microloan program for small businesses seeking early, low-dollar funding and certification in "Economic Gardening" and involvement in GrowFL. The service caters to "stage 2" Florida companies that have survived the perilous start-up stage and are looking for more substantial funding.

Chicago-born, Covey grew up in central Florida, previously working for a lender in Polk County.

Says Covey: "I've worked with entrepreneurs one way or other through my entire career and love it."

Now Pasco can add another notch on its belt of economic services for budding entrepreneurs.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected]

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