Keeping UF-spawned businesses discussed

It is seen as a key to job and economic growth for the area.


Published: Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 22, 2010 at 7:20 p.m.

Nurturing businesses created from University of Florida research inventions and keeping them in Gainesville are a key to local efforts for job and economic growth.

Government, education and business representatives discussed some of the ways they will support such efforts and other job creation programs at the FloridaWorks annual meeting Friday at the Best Western Gateway Grand.

Those at the meeting provided hints about an economic development plan that will be unveiled at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting Thursday night.

Jane Muir, associate director of the UF Office of Technology Licensing, said the plan includes UF's efforts to build a 45,000-square-foot innovation hub in the parking lot of the closed Shands at AGH to provide support services to tech startup companies.

She said she just wrote a $5 million U.S. Department of Labor grant for programs at the hub that include matching people's experience with tech companies, and provide training for entrepreneurs to turn more inventions into companies.

"We've got a lot of really highly educated unemployed, underemployed people," she said.

At the other end of the education scale, Bryan da Frota said that, as tech companies expand production, they will need a wider variety of employees.

Da Frota is president of Priora Robotics, which makes small, camera-mounted unmanned aerial vehicles.

"We started by hiring great thinkers and now as our business expands and matures, we're trying to find doers," he said.

Sonia Douglas, Chamber vice president, said rather than creating new organizations or facilities, the plan will connect all the resources that already exist to support economic development. She said the plan is being developed in collaboration with hundreds of people.

"We have every resource available in our community that we need for growth to go forward," she said. "What we are lacking is connectivity."

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