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 Rogers Park Golf Course and the Hillborough River from above. - Julie Branaman
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Development News

Lakeland's USF Polytechnic Opens Business Incubator

University of South Florida Polytechnic has opened two public business incubator locations: Blue Sky West at 116 S. Kentucky Ave. in Lakeland and Blue Sky East at 199 Ave. B NW in Winter Haven.

The Blue Sky locations will serve entrepreneurs and start-up companies by providing services that include mentoring, analytics, research and marketing in fully equipped and furnished offices located in Florida's high tech corridor near major airports, ports and universities. USF Poly faculty will provide guidance and students will provide services.

"We're looking to develop skill sets," says Eddie Hills, Blue Sky's director of New Venture Development. "In our relationships with our entrepreneurial clients, we coordinate our students' skill sets and schedules with the client's needs and time frame."

The incubators' openings coincide with Polytechnic becoming accredited as a four-year program. "By the time our graduates complete four years with us, they can do real-world projects and learn a practical skill set," says Hill. "Even if you've never worked a real job on the outside, this is invaluable experience." Hill says students may participate as entrepreneurial clients at Blue Sky as well. The program will serve Polk, Hardee, Highlands and DeSoto counties.

According to the National Business Incubation Association, there are more than 1,400 business incubators in North America. The NBIA estimates that business incubators generated $17 billion in revenue within their communities in 2005.

"We're hoping to build industry clusters," says Hill. "We hope to grow an entire generation of entrepreneurs here. If you want to grow a business, terrific. If you want to start a nonprofit, we're here. If you want to become an entrepreneur in a company you're already working for, then we can help you there, too."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Eddie Hill, Blue Sky at USF Polyechnic
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