A $1.2 million donation from the City of Lake Wales will revitalize a new business incubator aimed at increasing the number of new businesses and entrepreneurs in Lake Wales.
Funding for the project comes from the United States Relief Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden last year. The city has received approximately $7 million allocated for economic development projects.
The funds will be used to operate “Bizlink,” which is based in a former dental office at 225 Lincoln Avenue. Operated by Florida Development Corporation (FDC), it provides services and training to people who want to start or expand their business ideas. Grants are provided to the company in three annual tiers, with final installments depending on agreed performance targets.
FDC is one of the developers that has already partnered with the Community Redevelopment Corporation (CRA) to build affordable housing in the North West area, the goal of the Lake Wales Connected Plan.
The incubator accomplishes two other goals set in the plan designed to drive economic growth and increase property values.
CEO Derrick Blue told LakeWalesNews.Net that the concept offers companies the opportunity to be hosted and nurtured by experienced business leaders, while offering a wide range of products, from insurance and cover Internet to office space and utilities. He said he could enjoy the benefits. Each applicant pays rent in exchange for the services they receive.
“We have built an entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Blue said.
The city commissioner was enthusiastic about the project, noting the for-profit company’s impressive track record in the Tampa Bay area. Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson and Commissioner Danny Krueger visited the group’s incubator in a small warehouse in East Tampa.
“If you want, you can lift the milk crate and sit under the shed,” Blue said, emphasizing that knowledge is key.
Gibson was so impressed with the business incubator’s promise that he announced on Wednesday that he would transfer funds from his GiveWell charitable account to the Community Redevelopment Agency. They are going to pay the architect to repair the facade of the building.
“I think Lincoln should have the same standards…just like we do downtown,” Gibson said.
“These funds provide additional subsidies to the FDC, but are not publicly funded,” Gibson explained. GiveWell accounts can only be donated to charities or non-profit organizations, including CRA.
“Oh wow!” Blue said when informed of Gibson’s comments. “He seems like someone who really loves his community,” he added, adding, “He really appreciates the support.
In its first submission to the Commission over a month ago, FDC directors explained that applicants can receive a variety of services and supports to help develop their business idea, but the success of the Emphasizes the need to be on the “tip”. Entrepreneurs must “provide products that are trainable, usable, sustainable and profitable,” it explains.
Blue said he expects the project to be fully operational in October as the purchased building is in good condition. “It needs some work, but nothing structural,” he said.
Each candidate must attend a workshop and, if successful, eventually become a trainer. FDC officials said the process was “transformative” in the economic development of the host region.
Lincoln Avenue is also the subject of several other development projects, including a new restaurant, a shopping mall with upstairs apartments, and a law firm. This once-prosperous region has suffered economic decline for decades.