AMPLIFY Clearwater taps local expertise, launches tourism incubator

As the chamber of commerce organization in a city with one of the country’s top beaches, AMPLIFY Clearwater had a clear target industry for its first business incubator. 

“We have always taken the position as an organization that we don’t want to compete in our market, we want to complement what’s already there,” AMPLIFY President and CEO Amanda Payne says. “As we began to have conversations about what successful incubators look like, we discovered the most successful incubators in the nation really capitalized on the expertise in their market. When we then began to discuss the expertise in our market, tourism was the obvious answer.” 

AMPLIFY launches its tourism incubator in October with an initial cohort of 10 entrepreneurs who will go through a 10-week program. The Clearwater City Council is putting  $250,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funding toward the incubator. AMPLIFY is partnering with Clearwater-based firm Economic Impact Catalyst, which works with economic development agencies and business incubators across the country, to run the new incubator.

AMPLIFY says the new incubator will fill a gap for both tourism-related startups and its own offerings. The Clearwater Business SPARK network, which AMPLIFY took over last year, is geared to guide and assist entrepreneurs in the early stage of the business development process. AMPLIFY, as an organization, primarily focuses on established businesses. That leaves a gap for businesses in the ideation or growth stage. The new incubator seeks to fill that gap.

Payne says AMPLIFY wants the incubator to nurture innovative ideas.

“What we want to do is think outside of the box,” she says. 

That may mean entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and solutions in transportation, sports tourism, medical tourism, eco-tourism, sustainability, resiliency or beach renourishment.

“All those things are tourism-related,” Payne says. “Addressing some of the issues and crises we face as a state through innovation could potentially help others in a similar situation across the nation.”

The incubator will offer coaching and mentoring, access to capital, shared office space and technology infrastructure resources, business partnership opportunities and training and workshops. Entrepreneurs not quite ready for the incubator will have the opportunity to first go through a boot camp program. AMPLIFY plans to have two cohorts a year, with the next in the spring of 2024. 

Payne says the organization would like entrepreneurs who go through the program to set down roots in Clearwater.

“Certainly we want to support entrepreneurs right here at home,” she says. “But we also want to attract the best and the brightest from all over the nation to get started and invest right here in Clearwater. We hope to foster economic investment and development through this incubator by attracting entrepreneurs from around the nation who need that extra helping hand to get started and then choose to stay and invest here.”

For more information, go to AMPLIFY tourism incubator.
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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.