Where is the SWFEC located?
At the gateway to Fort Myers just 2 miles from Interstate 75 on state highway 82. Street Address: 3903 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Suite 5, Fort Myers, Fl. 33916
What is the SWFEC?
A business incubator dedicated to assisting start up or early stage businesses to succeed.
What does it do?
Provide businesses with a physical location from which to operate and technical assistance to owners to help them build a strong and long lasting business.
Who does it serve?
Anyone who can produce a product or deliver a service needed by the growing southwest Florida market.
What are the facilities?
Completed in July 2008, the SWFEC is housed in a brand new 40,000 square foot facility which includes 2,000 square feet of leaseable office space, 30,000 square feet of leaseable light industrial/warehouse space along with training and conference facilities.
The mission of the Southwest Florida Enterprise Center is to be a learning laboratory for entrepreneurial enterprises and to provide assistance and support to the entrepreneur so that he or she may realize the full potential of their enterprise and of themselves as business owners and managers.
Services available through SWFEC include:
- On-site management
- Consulting services:
- Business planning,
- Information technology,
- Legal assistance,
- Procurement (negotiator to help buyers of equipment, parts, materials and supplies make efficient purchases).
- Mentoring programs
- Marketing assistance
- Business management and presentation training
- Accounting assistance
- Networking with other businesses and community officials
- Phone, Fax, and Copy Support
- Utilities (Electricity, water)
- Custodial (Cleaning and maintenance)
- Access to Parking and easy access for vehicles
The history of the Southwest Florida Enterprise Center (SWFEC), formerly the Business Development Center, goes back to initiatives and efforts over 20 years ago to promote business development and entrepreneurial opportunities in the City of Fort Myers.
The SWFEC was established in January 1988. From 1988 to 2002 the SWFEC was part of the City of Fort Myers, Department of Community Development. In 2002, the SWFEC, via an inter-local agency agreement was moved from the City of Fort Myers, Community Development Department to the Community Redevelopment Agency.
In 2004 a study was conducted to determine the feasibility of the SWFEC and how it could become self sufficient in the near term future. Results of the study indicated not only a continued need for a business incubator, but an increasing demand for all that it can offer to the region. A plan for expanding facilities, adding requested programs and services, and achieving self sufficiency was submitted to the CRA Board of Commissioners. As a result, the CRA Board of Commissioners authorized SWFEC staff to prepare submission of an application to the US Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration for matching grant funds to expand and upgrade facilities at the SWFEC and to develop a plan to encourage other public and private funding of the project.
Fort Myers Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is constantly ranked as one of the fastest growing areas in the United States. Forecast magazine lists Fort Myers-Cape Coral 15th in its “Booming 25" ranking of the 25 fastest growing metro areas through the year 2005, while Demographics Daily (Bizjournals.com) listed Fort Myers-Cape Coral as a 5-star community for job growth, population growth and small business growth.
Currently the population for the Fort Myers MSA for 2005 is estimated by the various forecasters to be between 498,000 and 543,400 people. This trend is expected to grow through 2015.
The employment in the region and Fort Myers has been steadily growing. From 2000 to 2003, total employment has grown in Fort Myers MSA from 186,535 to 208,375. Estimates are that total employment will grow to 260,000 in 2005 and grew to 295,000 by 2010 (this is approximately a 13 percent increase over 5 years).
FORT MYERS MSA
Total Employment 2000-2003
In 2010, total retail sales are forecast to reach $7.9 billion and $9.2 billion by 2015. Growth historically was 46 percent from 1990 to 2000 and is forecast to rise by a similar amount of 43 percent from 2000 to 2010.
Total Retail Sales
Total earnings, the sum of wages and salaries and other labor income and proprietors’ income, were $4.0 billion dollars in 1990 (1996 constant dollars). From 1996 to 2000, total earnings rose by 52.1 percent reaching $6.0 billion dollars and are expected to continue the trend. Growth from 2000 to 2010 is forecast to rise by 54.9 percent reaching $9.3 billion. Economic forecast models are predicting healthy annual growth rate of about 3.6 percent from 2005 to 2010. This trend is expected to continue with total earnings rising to $11.1 billion in 2015.
City of Fort Myers
Over the last decade there has been a tremendous redevelopment in the City of Fort Myers. Downtown Fort Myers has become a center for new businesses, restaurants, and social clubs. Much of this growth and opportunity is attributable to the Fort Myers Redevelopment Agency. Increasingly we are seeing the growth and economic development opportunities moving east of the city to Interstate 75.
A business incubator is an economic development tool designed to accelerate the growth and success of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services. A business incubator’s main goal is to produce successful firms that will leave the program financially viable and freestanding, and to promote growth and economic opportunity in the region. Currently there are over 1500 small businesses being incubated all around the world.
In the 1970s, economic restructuring left many formerly prosperous communities economically devastated and searching for responses. Faced with bleak economic prospects, federal devolution (budgetary and policy), and mounting constituent pressure, states transitioned their economic development policies toward more “entrepreneurial” strategies.
According to a study conducted by the US Department of Commerce (A National Benchmarking Analysis of Technology Business Incubators), business incubation started when heavy equipment manufacturer Massey Ferguson pulled out of Batavia, New York, in 1959, leaving behind a hulking 850,000-square-foot facility. This catastrophic economic event seemed like the end of the line for the town. As it turned out, it was only the beginning, not just for Batavia, but also for a new generation of emerging companies that would change the composition of the American economy. After the ax fell in Batavia, local resident Joe Manucuso bought the building the company left behind. He hoped to use it to bring new businesses and new jobs to the area. His idea was right for the times and caught on rapidly, as businesses (including an actual incubator, hence the name) attracted by cheap rents, flexible space and shared services, filled the building.
The business incubation industry in the United States grew substantially between the 1980s and the 1990s growing from fewer than 15 in 1980 to more than 500 in 1993. Of this number, 200 or more entered 1992 with more than five years’ operating experience. The success of these incubator programs and the failure of some incubation programs have enabled the industry to identify and recognize patterns that can be adopted or prevented in the future.
"Today," says Dinah Adkins, executive director of the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA), "business incubators offer comprehensive support to fledgling businesses." But the other important benefit that business incubators often provide is access to the kind of early-stage capital that emerging companies need.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why Use a Business Incubator?
Since starting up a small business can be such a challenge for many new business owners, business incubator is often necessary to help nurture young companies those first few months or years until they have established themselves firmly in the community. The new entrepreneur can look to the incubator for hands-on management assistance, education, information, technical and vital business support services, networking resources, financial advice as well as advice on where to go to seek financial assistance.
What Does a Business Incubator Typically Provide?
A typical business incubator is a multi-tenant facility with common office equipment and a shared conference room. There is also an on-site full-time manager to assist in the delivery of business assistance training and services. Some services commonly provided in an incubator include (1) business plan development; (2) accounting, legal, and financial planning; (3) aid in attracting investors; (4) marketing; and (5) common shared services, such as secretarial support and facility maintenance. Once a fledgling business is financially viable—and the individual entrepreneur has developed the necessary survival skills—it is hatched into the open market, where it hopefully hires new employees and begins to contribute to the local (regional) economy
What is the Goal of Business Incubation?
The goal of an incubator according to the National Business Incubation Association is not only to ensure the small business survives the start-up period where they are most vulnerable, but to produce confident, successful graduates that are well grounded financially and secure in their knowledge of how to run a productive business independently, within two or three years of start-up. On the average 30 percent of an incubator’s clients graduate, and 87 percent of incubator graduates remain in business, according to the ‘Impact of Incubator Investments Study’, published in 1997. Worldwide more than 80 percent of incubator clients in both industrialized and industrializing nations successfully transition from the incubation program to profitability.
Business incubators make a difference in their communities.
In 2001 alone, North American incubators assisted more than 35,000 start-up companies that provided full-time employment for nearly 82,000 workers and generated annual earnings of more than $7 billion.
Business incubators create successful companies and reduce the risk of investment.
Business incubators reduce the risk of small business failures. The National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) member incubators report that 87 percent of all firms that graduated from their incubators are still in business. Startup firms served by NBIA member incubators annually increased sales by $240,000 each and added an average of 3.7 full- and part-time jobs per firm.
The business incubation industry continues to grow.
Today there are approximately 950 business incubators in North America, up from 587 in 1998 and just 12 in 1980. Approximately 60 percent of business incubators are either self sufficient or could be self sufficient if subsidies ceased. In 1997, only 13 percent believed they could continue at current levels without subsidies.
Business incubation is an economic development best value.
For every $1 of estimated annual public investment provided to the incubator, clients and graduates of NBIA member incubators generate approximately $30 in local tax revenue alone. NBIA members report that 84 percent of incubator graduates stay in their communities and continue to provide a return to their investors. In addition, publicly supported incubators create jobs at a cost of about $1,100 each, whereas other publicly supported job creation mechanisms commonly cost more than $10,000 per job created.
The NBIA estimates that North American incubator clients and graduates have created approximately half a million jobs since 1980. That is enough jobs to employ every person living in Denver, Colo. Every 50 jobs created by an incubator client generate another 25 jobs in the community.
Business incubators serve a variety of communities and markets. Some facts about incubators are:
- 47 percent of incubators are mixed use, accepting a wide variety of clients; 37 percent focus on technology firms; 7 percent serve manufacturing firms; 6 percent focus on service businesses, and the remainder concentrate on community revitalization projects or serve niche markets.84 percent of incubators are nonprofit and 16 percent are for profit.
- 44 percent of incubators draw their clients from urban areas, 31 percent from rural areas and 16 percent from suburban areas. Nearly a tenth (9 percent) of all programs draw clients from outside their region or from outside the United States.
- The most common sponsors of incubators are academic institutions (25 percent), government (16 percent), economic development organizations (15 percent) and for-profit entities (10 percent). However, 19 percent of incubators have no sponsoring entity.
- The most common goals of incubation programs are creating jobs in a community, enhancing a community’s entrepreneurial climate, retaining businesses in a community, building or accelerating growth in a local industry, and diversifying local economies.
If you are interested in locating a new business in the SWFEC or in moving your early stage business into the SWFEC we may have the space you need in a great location.
Office sizes are 96, 120, 132 and 144 square feet each. Current rates for rental of office space are $24 per square foot per year plus 6% sales tax, and include electric, clerical assistance, furniture (optional), access to fax and copier (minimum charge for copies), wireless internet, custodial service, parking, and ongoing training opportunities. Also available for use by tenants are 2 conference rooms and a 50 seat training room.
The Southwest Florida Enterprise Center has 24 bays available to be leased. Each of the bays is a space of either 1190 sq. ft. or 1600 sq. ft. and may be available in multiples to businesses that require them. Current rent for bays is $6.50 per square foot per year plus 6% sales tax. Each bay has a concrete floor, 3 phase electric service, and ample parking space for customer and/or business vehicles. Tenants are responsible for establishing electricity accounts with FPL.
Applicant Process for leasing space at SWFEC
Lease is for a two-year agreement with one option for an additional two-years. In order to be eligible to rent the applicant must:
- Complete an application
- Prepare a business plan to be reviewed by the SWFEC Director
- Acquire all appropriate licenses, permits and inspections appropriate to the type of business they intend to operate
- Provide proof of insurance coverage: $1.0 million in comprehensive liability, $250.0 thousand in fire legal liability, and workers compensation to cover all proposed employees
- Pay first month, last month, and security
- No lease is final until approved by the CRA Board Chair
Lease Services Include:
- Affordable office or shop space
- Access to clerical support
- On site business consulting at no charge
- Use of computer lab with printer
- Access to fax and copy machines
- Conference rooms
- Furnished office (optional)
- Mail and custodial service
- Creative environment where the business owner can minimize risk.
- Workshops on a variety of issues facing small business owners
A written business plan is critical
No matter what business you intend to start, where you plan to locate it, or how much you intend to invest in it, there is one thing, above all others, you must do BEFORE investing one nickel in your new business…. WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN!
You need to write a business plan for three important reasons:
- To prove to yourself, and others, that your business has a realistic chance to succeed.
- To serve as a road map for various business decisions you will face from the very beginning of your enterprise.
- As a formal document that thoroughly explains your concept to potential investors and demonstrates why their investment in your idea makes sense for them.
Recommended Business Plan Format
The length of a business plan is not important. What is critical is that it contain all of the necessary information to demonstrate that the idea makes sense; fills a need in the market; provides a satisfactory financial benefit for owners and investors; and demonstrates the business owners, managers, and employees are capable of delivering stated results. The b-plan should be organized as follows:
Cover Page with Company Logo
Be careful– do not use the logo of another company! A unique logo can be important to your business (McDonald’s golden arches, Nike swoosh, etc.) Invest a little time and money having a logo developed for use in signs, letterhead, invoices, business cards, etc. It will give your business a polished and professional look.
Table of Contents
List everything that is in your b-plan and the order in which it will be found. It is always a good idea to number your pages for easy reference.
Although it appears early in the b-plan, the executive summary should be the last part written. The purpose of the executive summary is to recap everything in the entire plan, but do it in one page! The executive summary is the first place potential investors go for information. If you can’t get their interest in your business idea with this section, you will not likely to get them interested in reading the entire plan. This part is VERY important
Research what is happening in the business you are starting. Read trade magazines, newspaper articles and the like. How many similar businesses exist in the area you intend to serve? In other words, how many competitors will you have? Is the number of those businesses growing or shrinking? What do you know about the level of success of the potential competitors? What does that tell you about this business idea? What barriers exist to you getting into this business? Some of this info will be readily available by reading magazines and papers. However, you will probably find it necessary to also contact local Chambers of Commerce, local newspaper research departments, or examine the latest US Census data to get the information necessary. What you are tying to do in this section of the b-plan is to prove there is a NEED in the market that is not being met and that your business can capitalize on that.
Choosing a name is more important than most small businesses realize. Naming the business after yourself might be a nice stroke to your ego, but does it help potential customers understand what your business does and therefore, what it is capable of doing for them> Try to find a name that says something about what you will be doing and allows for the future growth of your business as well. When you settle on a name be sure to check that there are no other businesses using that name, or one that could be easily confused with it. Business frown on someone stealing their name and when they do it usually leads to lawyers! Check with the Secretary of State in the state in which you will operate any name registered there is “off limits” to you.
A mission statement is your UNIQUE REASON TO EXIST as a business. A business without a mission is one without direction. Development of a mission for your business should not be an easy project it should require lots of thought about what you want consumers to think about you and how you do business. Think about what you are going to do in this business that is UNIQUE and how the mission will provide direction on the big decisions you will need to make as well as how you and your employees will approach the everyday situations you will encounter.
The most efficient way to approach this portion of the b-plan is to consider all of the things that need to be done to operate the business successfully. Who sells? Who buys products for resale? Who is responsible for housekeeping? Who handles computer input? Who develops marketing materials? Once you have identified all of the things that must be done you can then determine “who” will do them. At this point the “who” does not need to be a specific individual, but should be identified on an organizational chart as a position within your business that will be responsible for performing certain specific business related activities. Knowing what things must be done to operate the business and assigning them to a specific job function before the business starts will eliminate confusion and omission of critical functions once the business is started.
The portion is about whom you intend to serve with your business. Please don’t fool yourself by saying, “Everybody is my customer”. As big as General Motors, Dell Computer, and McDonalds are they do not have “everybody” as a customer that is why there is Ford, Gateway, and Burger King. To satisfy this part of the b-plan you need to profile the consumer you want to serve– age, sex, income, home owner/renter, etc.– what are the characteristics of the person you are trying to serve with your business? You will need to return to the US Census data and other sources of demographic data to help you identify how may consumers fit into this profile in the area you are going to serve. The reference area of your local library should be able to direct you to other data sources. This is critical information since consumers will be spending money in your business you need to know how many are available and what their spending habits are.
Once you have identified where your consumers are and how many of them can be found there through your demographic summary work you should now have a better understanding of how to reach them. Marketing your business is not just about running newspaper ads. That is expensive and not always the best way to get your message to the people most likely to spend money with you. What are the marketing tools you intend to use– newspaper, radio, T.V.., direct mail, public relations activities, press releases, special events, etc? How frequently will you use them? What do you plan to spend each week, month, or season to market your business? What is your standard in measuring the success of marketing efforts?
You should include 3 elements in your financial plan: Start Up Costs.
- Start Up Costs
- Opening Day Balance Sheet: The costs of EVERYTHING you need in order to get the business organized BEFORE you open the first day.
- One year and 3 year income and expense projections.
More than 200 people have benefited from this exciting, energizing, and informative program.
- YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT STARTING A BUSINESS
- YOU ARE CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF STARTING A BUSINESS BUT ARE CONFUSED ABOUT EVERYTHING YOU HAVE TO DO
- YOU ALREADY OWN YOUR OWN BUSINESS BUT ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THE RESULTS YOU ARE GETTING FROM IT
Then Entrepreneur School is for you. Register Now for our next session:
Call 239-321-7085 for more details and to reserve your seats
Next Class Begins:
Date: July 15 thru August 19 - Every Tuesday for 6 weeks
Time: 5:30 pm – 7:30 p.m
Cost: $74.20 spouse or business partner $37.10
Location: Southwest Florida Enterprise Center
3903 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Suite 5
Fort Myers, Fl. 33916
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