FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business

Startups and Standouts

Lynda Keever

Small businesses are the heartbeat of Florida's economy, and we enthusiastically recognize that fact each year by publishing Florida Small Business magazine. Florida Trend subscribers received the 2005-06 edition this month as part of our annual subscription package, which also includes The Great Florida Restaurant Guide, now to be published in December.

Beginning this month, 105,000 copies of Florida Small Business will be distributed across the state with the assistance of our partners, Enterprise Florida and the Florida Economic Development Council. Of those copies, 20,000 will be used by the Florida Division of Corporations to answer the thousands of business information requests it processes each year.

This is the seventh annual issue of Florida Small Business, a magazine we launched to address the specific challenges of building and growing a business in Florida.

So many of you know those challenges firsthand, and I encourage you to take advantage of the research and reporting from Small Business Editor Barbara Miracle and her staff of writers. The online version is available at FloridaSmallBusiness.com with links to companies and organizations that provide products and services to Florida's small businesses.

Another exceptional resource that encourages and supports the growth of new ventures in Florida is JMI, the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, at Florida State University. In April, JMI celebrated its 10th year of providing entrepreneurs with practical assistance and consulting services.

At the black-tie anniversary celebration in Tallahassee, the sold-out crowd gave a standing ovation for the institute's founders, automobile industry legend Jim Moran and his wife, Jan, for their financial support over the past 10 years. The Morans' generous donations, supplemented with a major grant from the state, created a fully funded endowment that has allowed the institute to provide a wide range of services to entrepreneurs at no charge. It's obvious from reading client testimonials at www.cob.fsu.edu/jmi that Jerry Osteryoung, director of JMI since its beginning, and the JMI staff are succeeding in the institute's mission.

A highlight of the evening's presentations was the award to Rick Kearney, CEO of Mainline Information Systems, as Entrepreneur of the Decade. Kearney was selected by previous winners of JMI's annual Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards, and it's easy to see why.

Kearney started Mainline in 1989 in Tallahassee as a computer consulting firm. Today the company is a leading force in the e-business revolution. For five years in a row, Inc. magazine has ranked it one of the 500 fastest-growing privately held companies.

Another of Florida's tech firms stands out for having moved to the top of this year's Florida Public 150 list. With $19.8 billion in 2004 revenue, Tech Data, the Clearwater-based computer distributor, pulled ahead of AutoNation to take the No. 1 spot. Tech Data started out with about a dozen people back in 1974 and now employs about 8,400 in offices worldwide.

The extraordinary success of Mainline and Tech Data confirms my belief that with the right support and encouragement today's small-business startup is just an entrepreneur's dream away from being tomorrow's standout. Our goal here at Florida Trend is to provide the information and resources to help them do just that.

Lynda Keever can be reached by e-mail at LKeever@floridatrend.com.