Incubating the future
Meet The Makers: Jane Muir
Published: Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 3:45 p.m.
Starting a new business in the midst of an economic recession may not sound like good business sense. But for Jane Muir, who hatched the idea for a tech business incubator at UF in 2009—at the height of the Great Recession—the timing couldn't have been better.
“The recession was at its peak, and Florida was in the top five of all states for unemployment and home foreclosures, so it was easy to establish the need for the incubator,” says Muir, who now serves as director of the Florida Innovation Hub.
She adds that Alachua General Hospital also was closing at the time, and a lot of people in the community were worried about the future of that property. Many were pleased to learn of the university's plans to develop its Innovation Square on the site.
“I often told people that while the hospital would no longer be helping birth babies, the Innovation Hub would be birthing companies so our babies have jobs,” she says.
Muir, who is also associate director of UF's Office of Technology Licensing, says her interest in the Innovation Hub was piqued when she learned about a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) that was intended to create disaster-resistant jobs. She submitted a grant proposal requesting $8.2 million in funding from the EDA, together with a $5 million match from UF to create an incubator for tech startups from UF and around the state.
“We're going after technology because we know that for every one technology job we create, there's another ... two to seven jobs created in the community in terms of support services like restaurants, dry cleaners, car dealerships, etc.,” she says.
According to a recent report from the EDA, since it opened in October 2011, the 48,000-square-foot tech incubator already has created 250 jobs and brought in more than $10 million in private investments.