CLEARWATER – The Clearwater City Council, at its Feb. 7 meeting, unanimously approved two measures intended to lure new and mid-stage information technology and software firms to Clearwater.
The first of those was an agreement between the city and Star Tech Enterprises Inc. doing business as the Tampa Bay Information Center, an entity that operates on a $500,000 grant from the county and its own fundraising efforts.
“The purpose and intent of the agreement is to permit the city and TBIC to create and implement a Virtual Incubator Program that encourages the early and mid-stage growth of IT/software companies in the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) area of the City of Clearwater,” a staff memo to the City Council explained.
The agreement was part of an Economic Development Strategic Plan approved by the council in November 2011. That plan “identifies IT/software as one of the city’s industry clusters with the highest growth” and calls for the creation of a “technology district” within the city’s CRA area, according to the memo.
City officials decided that they needed the help of an outside entity to both lure start-up companies to Clearwater and to provide financial and technical aid to growing companies that are already here.
To accomplish those goals, TBIC will allow city officials to access its specialized services, which are normally only available through an on-site incubation center, without having to incur the expense of establishing a physical location in the CRA area.
“TBIC will establish and implement a process to screen and vet potential clients within the city to maximize resources and client success rates in Clearwater’s technology district,” the memo says. “When the client is accepted into the program, the TBIC will enter into agreements directly with the client. TBIC will provide a variety of services that foster early-stage and mid-stage companies to become market-ready faster and more efficiently, commercialize innovative technologies, recognize and penetrate new markets, refine their model, establish a strong scalable business infrastructure, identify sources of financing and surmount early-stage and mid-stage growth issues. They will monitor and report on the client’s progress and provide an annual report to the city.”
The program will be capped at no more than six clients per year. The expense of the clients’ application fees, background check fees, security deposits and monthly program fees will be paid by the CRA, but will be capped at $25,000 per year.
The second measure passed by the city council approved an interlocal agreement between the CRA and the city regarding the funding of the Virtual Incubator Program.
“The purpose of the interlocal agreement is to permit the CRA and the city to collaborate and make the most efficient use of their resources and capabilities to implement a Virtual Incubator Program that encourages the growth of IT/Software start-up and mid-range companies in the CRA, a staff memo to the council explains.
“This is a program that will be run by the TBIC and administered by the city,” Geri Campos-Lopez, the city’s director of economic development and housing, told the council at its Feb. 4 work session.
This program also has a budget cap of $25,000 per year, but the CRA is authorized to exceed that cap when it becomes necessary to do so.