$3.3 million effort begun to bring 1,200 jobs to area

The Council for Economic Outreach officially kicked off fundraising Wednesday.


Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 6:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 11:22 p.m.

The economic development agency for Gainesville and Alachua County came to the business community with hat in hand Wednesday seeking $3.3 million to pay for efforts to create 1,200 new jobs over the next five years.

Facts

Goals and Accomplishments

MOMENTUM 2015 GOALS:

  • 1,200 new jobs – 400 each in new local companies, existing businesses and relocated companies.

  • $3.3 million in contributions from businesses.

  • Recruit companies in high-tech fields.

  • Retrain 500 employees for new work.

  • Work with city and county governments on site development.


2010 ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
  • 800 new jobs

  • $30 million in capital investments.

  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car call center: 200 jobs, $4.3 million capital investment

  • Brent-Tronics battery manufacturer: 15 jobs, $11 million investment by 2012, then more jobs.

  • Xhale Innovations: 200 new jobs expected within three years.

  • $450,000 in training grants to businesses.

  • 190 responses to projects, referrals and inquiries.

$2.7 million in contributions from businesses

The Council for Economic Outreach officially kicked off fundraising Wednesday and announced its five-year plan called Momentum 2015. The plan outlines the goals and steps CEO will take to implement last year's Innovation Gainesville plan created by hundreds of people in business, education and government to create, expand and recruit the kind of high-tech companies that come out of university research.

The steps include plans to: build on relationships with business incubators, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, local government and corporate site location consultants; provide job training; locate sites for expansion facilities; and advertise in industry journals to lure prospects.

The fundraiser kicked off two days after the University of Florida unveiled plans for Innovation Square on the former Shands AGH site that will include an incubator for research companies and opportunities for private developers and businesses.

CEO, which is affiliated with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, updates its economic development plan every five years. Its work is funded by donations from businesses.

Fundraising chairman Tom Mallini of M&S Bank said the fundraiser is off to a good start in spite of economic conditions, with just one business so far contributing less for financial reasons and many businesses contributing more.

He attributed the strong fundraising start to the "clear strategic plan and a broad base of leadership going to work on that plan."

After about a month, 43 businesses had contributed by early Wednesday.

More than 130 businesses contributed about $2.7 million to the previous five-year plan.

Mallini said companies contribute because it creates more business for them.

"New businesses come in, employ more people. There's more money to deposit in bank accounts, to borrow money for homes, cars, to educate their children."

He said more and better jobs also improve the quality of life.

"The citizens can prosper. Our support and need for social services is less. We should see lower poverty rates, less juvenile crime — all the social ills that accompany poverty are diminished."

Chamber 2010 Chairman Eric Godet said new businesses such as tech companies are contributing this time in addition to the usual banks and developers as a result of the broad participation in Innovation Gainesville.

He also said many previous donors are contributing more, which he attributed to the accomplishments of the past five-year plan.

CEO's work under that plan — called Opportunity 2010 — helped create about 800 new jobs, the highlight being Enterprise Rent-A-Car locating a call center with 200 jobs that paid 15 percent more than average local wages.

The goal set in 2006 — before the recession — was to create 2,000 new jobs.

Despite that, Godet, who chaired the plan's oversight committee, called the results "a roaring success" by creating jobs even when the population growth that lures new businesses slowed and without the expected contributions from local governments.

He praised local government's contribution to Innovation Gainesville, however, such as the city's quick response to land use regulations for Innovation Square.

"It was not an easy time to be doing economic development," said Brent Christensen, president and CEO of the Chamber and CEO. "We were successful in keeping jobs and adding jobs at a time when many other communities were losing them."

In the competitive sport of economic development, he said many communities also would envy the "firepower of a top research university and top community college, a city and county pulling together with the business community — that's a pretty powerful team looking forward."

He said his appointment, along with UF President Bernie Machen and Infinite Energy Vice President Rich Blaser, to Gov.-elect Rick Scott's economic development transition team, is recognition that Innovation Gainesville could be a model for the state.

"I think the governor realized the universities have tremendous business potential," Christensen said.

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