A May 1 opening for the new business center is planned inside a city-owned former post office building at 6347 Grand Blvd. City officials also are looking to open a city-operated "maker-space" program to encourage business creation.
The building had been unused for some time, says Krista Covey, SMARTstart's business incubator manager and PEDC's economic development manager. "They (New Port Richey) were trying to support entrepreneurship and spur business development in downtown New Port Richey," she says. "We obviously have had great success with the Smartstart program."
SMARTstart will occupy the largest share of the approximately 9,000-square-foot building. Covey says two potential start-up applicants are under review. "They have not been approved yet," she says.
About 40 volunteers pitched in to spruce up the building in April. Work crews are completing renovations, including painting and installation of an emergency exit.
The partnership of SMARTstart and the city's maker-space program is "a first that I'm aware of," says Mario Iezzino, New Port Richey
's economic development director. "It's a really great marriage between two concepts that are able to help get viable new businesses started."
The city is awaiting funds for maker-space, probably in the fall, Iezzino says. The program is designed to give entrepeneurs the tools to turn ideas into businesses.
"It brings in a different kind of entrepreneur," he says. "We have a lot of tinkerers. It's another way people can bring their ideas out of the garage."
The new SMARTstart incubator will be modeled on the first one at the Dade City Business Center, which has five on-site start-up companies and two off-site companies. The start-ups are The Busy Buddy, Stephanie Reed Photography, Innovative Payroll Services, H.B. Whitaker, Arielle Management Group, Flying R Group LLC, and Computers Etc.
An open house is scheduled for the business center from noon to 3 p.m. Friday at 15000 Citrus Country Drive, Suite 103, Dade City.
SMARTstart offers resources and support for people starting a business, moving from a home-based business or re-establishing a business. Services include consulting and mentoring, one-on-one counseling, business plan development and marketing advice.
A network of agencies and organizations provide support including Saint Leo University
whose faculty and students assist in developing business and marketing plans.
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Mario Iezzino, City of New Port Richey