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Innovation & Job News

Hillsborough County's economic initiative, entrepreneurial center shine spotlight on startups

Hillsborough County is betting on small business. Back in Feb 2013, the Economic Development Council announced the Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2), a measure to nurture the startup community and kickstart industry innovation. The aim? To support small business, build entrepreneurship, and grow technology in Tampa Bay.

Now in its fifth round of funding, the EDI2 program has received local accolades like the recent “TiETan of Entrepreneurship” award from TiE Tampa Bay, along with national recognition from tech leaders like Guy Kawasaki for its support of the local Startup Bus.

From support of small, grassroots initiatives to a well-developed board review and application process, Hillsborough County Economic Development Manager Jennifer Whelihan says the EDI2 program “is a model of transparency for its taxpayers,” and it could serve as a national model for County engagement with local business communities.

Whelihan credits the County Commissioners who created the EDI2 program for their leadership and dedication to technology and innovation. 

“They have assisted our community with the emergence of our next tech generation to help Hillsborough County grow on the tech map,” she says.

In the past year, organizations that the EDI2 has supported have created and retained a total of 168.5 jobs. An additional 1,366.75 intern hours worked at 127 events with over 2,565 attendees.

“Through the program, we are driving opportunities, growing a community of technology entrepreneurs and facilitating collaboration among existing organizations,” explains Whelihan. “Our collaborative efforts are truly growing our community’s entrepreneurial resources.”

After one year, four rounds, and close to $600,000 in support to entrepreneurial events and programs in Hillsborough County, the EDI2 program has developed new roots in the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center.

The rebranding of the former Small Business Information Center into the new, more tech-friendly Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC) goes hand in hand with the very heart of the EDI2 program –- to serve as a hub for a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem, to encourage connections within the community, and to provide resources to startups and small business owners alike.
 
The new location in a yet-to-be-determined space in Ybor City will move County business initiatives closer to the growing downtown hub, catering to the many local entrepreneurs who operate from home offices or shared workspaces like the new CoWork Ybor. The ECC is set to open in Nov 2014.

“Business incubation and acceleration programs play a vital role in the quest to improve our community by evolving our entrepreneurial, technology and innovation ecosystem,” says Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County Economic Development Director. “Through the EDI2 program, we are driving opportunities, growing a community of technology entrepreneurs, and facilitating collaboration among existing organizations.”
 
The fifth EDI2 funding cycle application deadline is Oct. 31, 2014. Full program and application information is available online at the County website.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer and editor for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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