UF looks to Marion to entice firms

Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 12:04 a.m.

OCALA - Innovative ideas born at the University of Florida may lead to good, high-paying "clean tech'' jobs in Marion County.

UF President Bernie Machen said Tuesday that fledgling businesses spawned by university inventions and nurtured in a business incubator in Alachua could well blossom in Marion County.

Machen told business leaders at an Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce luncheon that the region hasn't benefited enough from the economic force the university generates.

Inventions created at the university each year lead to patents and millions in licensing fees. The marketable ones lead to new businesses. Research grants to the university routinely help create marketable ideas worth a fortune. "Last year, UF got $40 million in licensing revenue,'' Machen said.

"We really are an economic engine,'' Machen said of the university. "Our region hasn't been able to capitalize on it the way that we would like.''

After businesses have received help at an incubation center in Alachua and grown to be independent, it would make sense for Marion County to entice them to locate to Ocala, Machen said.

After some initial success, the new business would likely start hiring local people as it expanded and possibly become a permanent fixture in the community.

"Businesses form an intense loyalty to areas where they start and stay,'' Machen said. "It would mean good, high-paying clean tech jobs,'' he said.

"It makes a lot of sense to develop the technologies in Alachua County and seek to manufacture them in Marion,'' said Philip Geist, area director of the Florida Small Business Development Center. "Gainesville has a lot of intellectual capital, world-renowned researchers, patents and technology, but if you were looking for existing buildings, sites to put buildings and an existing skilled labor force, you'd probably find them more easily in Marion than Alachua County.''

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