LEESBURG — The Lake County Board of County Commissioners recently entered a partnership agreement with the City of Leesburg and University of Central Florida (UCF) Research Foundation to strengthen a business incubator at the Leesburg Business & Technology Center, located at 600 Market St.
The agreement will provide tools, training and infrastructure to start-up companies at the fledgling incubator that was created about a year ago through a partnership between Leesburg, Lake-Sumter Community College Business Resources Center, Leesburg Chamber of Commerce and SCORE. Under the new partnership agreement, space for the incubator is provided by the City and Lake County is supplying $85,000 to the UCF Research Foundation to fund staffing for the incubator.
“Business incubation is a critical element of economic-development strategy,” said Dottie Keedy, Director of the Lake County Department of Economic Growth & Redevelopment. “Studies show that 95 percent of companies stay in the community where they are established. Incubator support greatly reduces the risk of failure and 87 to 91 percent of companies that graduate from an incubator program are still in business five years later.”
With five other incubators throughout Central Florida, this will be UCF’s first incubator in Lake County. The UCF Research Foundation will provide a variety of services to fledgling companies at the Leesburg incubator, such as networking, business counseling, finance & accounting, education, intellectual properties, technology, legal services, marketing, office operations and public relations.
“Incubators are important because statistics show that within the first three years of a new business there is a significant amount of businesses that don’t make it,” said Ken Thomas, Director of the Leesburg Economic Development Department. “In a business incubator, 85 percent of clients make it within the first three years.
“UCF will provide an array of business-development services and resources to help accelerate the growth of our incubator,” he said. “In addition, when you say UCF incubator I think more people are going to pay attention to it.”
According to Dr. Tom O’Neal, UCF Associate Vice President for Research & Commercialization and Director of the Incubation Program, the UCF Research Foundation will bring program support and experience in running an incubator to the Leesburg facility.
“With our network of other incubators, we can provide a big-scale incubator in Leesburg without the big scale in costs and structure,” he said. “We have been able to successfully leverage the University and all its resources, as well as community assets, to help companies. We’ve helped more than 100 companies, and we have more than 60 companies in the system right now. We have graduated 34 companies from the program and 32 are still in the community and in business. So, that’s how we measure success.”
For more information about the UCF-Lake County Incubator at the Leesburg Business & Technology Center, call the Leesburg Economic Development Department at (352) 728-9765. For more information about the Lake County Department of Economic Growth & Redevelopment, call (352) 343-9866.