Focus on Local Business is EDC’s priority

Beth Kirkland, CEcD, Executive Director, Economic Development Council

In the world of economic development, like many other areas of business, it is often the behind-the-scenes events that have the greatest impact.

While the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County gets lots of attention from the community when a company relocates here, (or even as we pursue those opportunities), it is our day-to-day work with existing local businesses that creates the foundation for a strong and fruitful future.

Through our First Focus on Local Business program, a cooperative initiative of area economic development organizations, small business resources, education and workforce development entities, we are proactively engaging local companies to assist them in expanding facilities, creating jobs and diversifying the local economic base.

The ongoing success of the program is based on a commitment to support all local businesses interested in taking advantage of our programs, while focusing on what we call our “targeted sectors.” These sectors are categories of businesses and research efforts that meet three criteria: regional and national growth trends, higher-than-average wages, and a service or product that is sold outside of the market, bringing new dollars into our community.

In fact, over the past several years, focusing on these sectors has led to the creation of six active roundtables, several of which have evolved into independent organizations. These roundtables are Information Technology; Advanced Manufacturing; Health Sciences & Human Performance Enhancement; Aviation & Aerospace; Renewable Energy/Environment; and Transportation & Logistics. Each roundtable collaborates with local and state organizations that provide business resources and advocacy.

The EDC also has been successful over the last year in delivering dollars directly to business owners through several local incentive programs. Since November 2009, 123 applications were processed for a total of tax refunds or credits in the amount of $633,961 through the state Enterprise Zone program. This program targets redevelopment and job creation within a 20-square-mile area of Leon County. This successful outcome is the result of extensive outreach to businesses and residents through five area workshops with a combined attendance of 303 people.

Another source of financial support available through the EDC is the Incumbent Worker Training grant program administered by Workforce Florida. The funds help small businesses who have been in operation for at least one year stay competitive by providing skills-upgrade training for existing full-time employees. We encourage eligible businesses to utilize this resource soon to take advantage of the remaining $2 million in grants still available throughout the state.

For more about these and other programs, visit or call the EDC at (850) 224-8116.