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Tallahassee's missing economic development piece

A new incubator in Leon County fills a void in economic development.

What was once a warehouse at the Leon County Historic Amtrak Station is now a support system for budding entrepreneurs.

Domi Ventures, a private firm with ties to venture capital, partnered with Leon County government to renovate the space, which is now called Domi Station, as an incubator and co-working space.

Located between Florida State University and Florida A&M, Domi opened in May, with about 30 startups leasing space.

“What makes it so cool is that it’s right in the middle of a really exciting revitalization effort,” says Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long. “There is so much human capital here. The level of privatesector investment is staggering.” The idea originated during a county commission retreat in 2011, when officials identified a business incubator as a missing piece in local economic offerings. Commissioners directed county staff to explore the possibility of establishing an incubator.

Its backers hope Domi will spur collaboration among local universities, the business community and entrepreneurial support organizations, says Kristin Dozier, Leon County Commission chairman. “The county’s repurposing of this historic property is an investment in local businesses and entrepreneurs to stimulate long-term sustainable economic growth.”

An agreement between Domi Ventures and Florida State University designates a special Florida State pod within the incubator. The pod offers the same technology resources, mentoring capabilities and other support mechanisms as elsewhere in the incubator, but will be available exclusively for use by Florida State faculty and students who apply. The FSU pod supports a co-working office environment for up to eight startups.

Micah Widen, CEO of Domi Ventures, says entrepreneurs are working on projects including hurricane tracking software and streamlining shopping with Google Glass.

“These entrepreneurs could be somewhere else doing great work, but they chose Tallahassee,” Widen says.

Profile

Southern Craft Creamery Lauren and Zach O’Bryan’s dairy farm has about 300 cows that produce milk for their Southern Craft Creamery ice cream in Marianna. The couple wanted to advance the farm-to-table movement in the Panhandle and began making seasonal flavors, including strawberry balsamic and satsuma ginger sorbet, as a way to feature other products from local farmers. They use locally roasted coffee for their coffee-flavored ice cream. The creamery also offers sweet cream, vanilla, salty caramel, milk chocolate and salty chocolate, as well as the exotic-sounding turmeric ginger and bay laurel.

Lauren and Zach O’Bryan run a dairy farm and Southern Craft Creamery in Marianna.

Business Briefs

CRESTVIEW — Zaxby’s restaurant is opening a franchise location in Crestview, initially hiring 40 employees.

DESTIN — The Brownstones, a townhome project in Kelly Plantation in Destin, broke ground in May. The development will have 23 “Florida Brownstones” on five acres, with bay, golf course and nature preserve views and threeand four-bedroom plans, ranging from 2,800 to 3,100 square feet. Phase one is expected to be completed by next February, with prices starting at $629,000. > Destin Commons shopping center is opening more than 20 new stores and restaurants in its expanded section, adding 100,000 square feet and 150 to 200 jobs. New businesses include Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl & Grill, H&M and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

FRANKLIN COUNTY — St. George Island’s Julian G. Bruce State Park was selected No. 3 among the top 10 beaches in the U.S. for the fourth year by Stephen “Dr. Beach” Leatherman, director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University.

FORT WALTON BEACH — The Holiday Inn Resort on Fort Walton Beach opened as part of a joint commercial loan project between Navy Federal Credit Union and Pen Air Federal Credit Union. The 152-room resort has about 150 employees. Innisfree Hotels, the owner of the property, offers discounted rooms for military families. Marriott’s TownePlace Suites, an extended-stay hotel chain by Marriott, is opening a hotel across the street from Eglin Federal Credit Union. The 112-room hotel will likely employ 25 to 35.

JACKSON COUNTY — Jackson Hospital will receive $11.4 million from the state to expand its operating room and replace a 36-year-old generator.

NAVARRE — Southern Specialty Market, a food market specializing in Southern dishes, opened. The shop also carries Southern and Cajun sauces and faithbased gifts.

PENSACOLA — Tosh Belsinger and the Merrill brothers of Great Southern Restaurants and Merrill Land purchased the historic Lee House in downtown Pensacola. The business is now called Lee House Boutique Inn & Events. Pensacola entrepreneur Ray Russenberger announced plans for 701 Palafox, a 10-unit luxury condominium project to be set alongside downtown Pensacola’s historic wharf. Non-profit 90Works, formerly Families Count, is celebrating its 30th anniversary by rebranding the organization. The charity’s new program focuses on helping people struggling financially to become self-suffcient within 90 days.

TALLAHASSEE — Fashion merchandiser Hennes & Mauritz will open an H&M store in Governor’s Square this fall, the company’s first location in northwest Florida. The Alliance of Entrepreneur Resource Organizations launched its website BigBendBiz.Com, providing businesses with resources from its coalition of public agencies and community non-profit organizations. > Theatre Tallahassee received $475,000 in the state budget for renovations. Shop X for Glass, a Tallahassee startup launched in January, developed a mobile app available to Google Glass users, providing voice command features and hands-free access to shopping lists. The company is one of the first businesses to reside in business incubator Domi Station.

Players

> Allie Noah is the new development director for Children in Crisis in Fort Walton Beach. Noah was previously public director at Setco Services in Destin.

> Al McCambry, director of Corporate College at Gulf Coast State College, was elected to the National Council of Continuing Education and Training board, an organization for leaders in workforce, community and Noah economic development.

Leon County’s involvement ‘is an investment in local businesses and entrepreneurs to stimulate long-term sustainable economic growth,’ says county commission Chairman Kristin Dozier.

Business incubator Domi Station, with about 30 startups leasing space, opened in May.