Tech firm is decreasing presence in Gainesville


Published: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 12:00 a.m.
CENETEC on Page 7B Continued from 5B CENETEC: Could still have plans to keep a smaller local officeBy JOE COOMBS
Sun business writer Cenetec Ventures LLC, the anchor tenant at a city-owned technology incubator building, is in negotiations to break its lease and decrease its presence in Gainesville.
Cenetec, which offers consulting and management services to its clients in exchange for an ownership stake, was the first tenant when the Gainesville Technology Enterprise Center (GTEC) opened in April 2001.
But economic conditions and a lack of new deals have forced Cenetec to change its business model, and the company is working on a deal with the city to get out of a three-year lease at the GTEC facility on Hawthorne Road, where it occupies the building's second floor.
"It's pretty clear they're going to be leaving," said Wayne Bowers, Gainesville's city manager.
"We're still working out a deal (on the lease). We've talked about a number of different solutions. We hope to have something next week."
Cenetec has not officially detailed its future plans to the city or the Alliance for Economic Development, which manages the GTEC building, said Alliance president Brent Christensen.
But Bowers and Morris Windhorst, GTEC's manager, confirmed Wednesday that Cenetec is negotiating to break its rental agreement at the facility.
In recent weeks, Cenetec officials announced they were changing their business model.
The company is in the process of raising money to operate more as a venture capital firm and provide financial assistance, rather than consulting, to start-up technology companies.
As a result, Cenetec officials said last month that they would not be taking on any new deals with clients while they restructured operations. Executives at the company's Boca Raton headquarters could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, and staff at the company's Gainesville office were also unavailable.
The company could still have plans to keep a local office and continue making financial investments in tech-based businesses, Windhorst said.
"I'm not sure that they're totally pulling out of Gainesville," Windhorst said. "But they have informed us that they won't be needing the space upstairs (at GTEC)."
In Gainesville, Cenetec has provided services for two of GTEC's tenants - MarCon Global Data Solutions Inc., which has an Internet-based product that targets the clinical trials industry, and ICU Datasystems, which makes software for use in hospitals' intensive care units.
Those companies are considered "graduates" of Cenetec's program, and have progressed to the point where they don't need Cenetec's services for their operations.
"We'd like to see them continue to grow here in Gainesville," Christensen said.
GTEC operates on a budget of roughly $200,000, and the city budgeted an extra $50,000 for any potential losses during GTEC's first two years of operations, Bowers said. Cenetec's monthly lease payment to the city is $17,000.
The GTEC building is also home to a number of start-up companies and business service offices on its first floor. The building's operations are also funded by lease payments from those tenants.
Recent economic conditions certainly haven't helped Cenetec, as venture capital investments in new companies have declined with the economy in recent months.
Even if Cenetec decides to leave the building, Windhorst said he was grateful for the company's expertise and the assistance it has provided to GTEC's tenants.
"What I've had is someone who has filled my top floor for the past 18 months and provided this building with some amazing resources," he said.
Joe Coombs can be reached at (352) 338-3102 or coombsj@gvillesun.com.

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