July 23, 2014

entrepreneurship

UCF's Incubator Attracting More Attention

Diane Sears | 10/1/2009

Peter Wengert’s biometrics technology company BioTraits, a UCF Business Incubation Program company founded in 2003, posted almost $1 million in revenue last year. [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, the University of Central Florida’s Business Incubation Program has attracted international attention as a result of its success in fostering jobs.

 O'Neal
With seven offices and 30 graduates, its greatest contribution, says the program’s executive director, Tom O'Neal, is the 1,600 jobs its client companies have created — and a “business ecosystem” in place to continue creating more.

In July, Entrepreneur magazine touted Orlando as one of the 10 best cities nationwide for starting a business, saying it has “one of the most highly coordinated entrepreneurial engines in the country.”

The program houses 80 companies at its main incubator site in the Central Florida Research Park and at satellite offices in downtown Orlando and Seminole, Osceola and Lake counties. The program will be featured soon in a book about best practices in the field, O'Neal says.

It also has a unique feature: The Disney Entrepreneur Center, home to 12 service providers, including SCORE and the U.S. Department of Commerce, that help accelerate businesses of all sizes and ages.

The incubator fosters research, development and job creation, and the accelerator hones business, marketing and leadership skills, says Disney Entrepreneur Center’s executive director, Jerry Ross, who reports to O'Neal.

“When I started the incubator in central Florida, I figured out pretty quickly that an incubator by itself wasn’t going to be successful,” O'Neal says. UCF had to make sure the high-growth companies going through the program got the support they needed at all levels. “We want companies that will contribute positively to the economic growth of this community — companies that create the most jobs.”

O'Neal and Ross attribute the program’s success to a spirit of partnership among government, industry and non-profit groups.

“We came together as a community,” O'Neal says. “It wasn’t just the university giving me money and telling me to do great things.”

Tags: Florida Small Business, Central, Education, Entrepreneur

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