Although it’s not widely known, the Manatee-Sarasota region is rich in the resources and services that startups and early stage businesses need. Linking these opportunities to make them more accessible to young businesses continues to be a challenge.
More than ever, the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. is nurturing startups and early stage businesses that align with the industry sectors in our strategic plan. Making connections for these businesses makes strategic sense. According to research by the Kauffman Foundation, new businesses account for nearly all net new job creation.
The EDC’s goal is to help companies grow, creating good jobs for area residents and for graduates from the region’s colleges and universities. Part of our role is making connections between Manatee County businesses and the resources they need to succeed. To do that, we team up with partners in workforce development, education and local governments.
Here’s an example illustrated by young businesses in the technology sector.
Tony Fernandez, founder and president of fast-growing MTech MDM, became an EDC client in 2015 through an introduction by Manatee Technical College. Fernandez was collaborating with the college on mobile technology training to develop a talent pipeline for his business. When the college’s staff learned that MTech needed a larger facility to accommodate a headquarters, service and support center, they encouraged Fernandez to contact the EDC.
Since working with MTech on the headquarters project, the EDC has made several connections for Fernandez by making sure he’s getting the help he needs to develop his technology workforce, introducing him to another business in the mobile industry for mutual benefit, and connecting him to a potential source for angel funding.
Originally founded in Manatee County as a mobile device repair company, MTech MDM provides comprehensive managed services focused on mobile devices. MTech’s services to enterprises include procurement, set up and registration of devices, software consultation, technical support, repair, and asset management. The company also has two retail outlets — in Lakewood Ranch and in Jupiter, in Palm Beach County.
We recently made two important connections for MTech that demonstrate how we nurture early stage businesses.
We saw potential synergy between MTech and another Manatee County business we’ve assisted — Go Puck, which invented the world’s first wearable, lithium-powered charging technology for mobile devices. The executives discussed their plans, found common ground, and MTech used the Go Puck technology for a client, a large hospital in the region. In return, Go Puck will introduce MTech to potential customers, said Lance Jones, Go Puck co-founder and chief development officer.
Treating the EDC as a trusted consultant, Fernandez shared his growth plans, including a need for capital. We introduced him to Tom Gardner, co-founder of the new BRIDGE angel investors group. BRIDGE is an acronym for Bringing Resources, Involvement and Dollars to Growing Enterprises.
Gardner and co-founder Sam Guren have recruited some 30 investors who together have committed a little over $3 million. The investors also are willing to mentor the startups and early stage businesses the fund selects. The group recently began reviewing candidates from a pool of companies located from Gainesville to Orlando to Naples. Now Fernandez is preparing MTech to make a pitch to BRIDGE investors.
“We located our headquarters in Manatee-Sarasota because of the fabric of support services for our young business,” Fernandez said. “The Bradenton Area EDC is like the quarterback bringing this all together.”
Fernandez is confident the EDC’s “quarterbacking” can deliver connections that will help MTech grow. We’re eager to do the same for other startups in Manatee County that align with the targeted industry sectors in our strategic plan. To learn more, go to BradentonAreaEDC.com.
Sharon Hillstrom is president and chief executive officer of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. (BradentonAreaEDC.com). She can be contacted at [email protected] or 803-9036.