Five years ago, the GrowFL Economic Gardening® (GrowFL) program was created at the University of Central Florida.  Between the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years, it has helped create nearly 3,745 net new jobs in the state of Florida, which also equates to $587 million added to Florida’s economy and nearly $20 million more in state and local tax revenues.

These figures are part of a new Florida economic impact study that credits GrowFL’s influence as a major job booster for second-stage companies, those that have 10 to 99 employees and between $1 million and $50 million in annual revenue.

“GrowFL has been critical to us,” said Mike Potts, chief engineer of feature[23], a Jacksonville software-development company. “We wouldn’t be in the position today to expand throughout Florida without their help.”

Potts said the GrowFL staff validated the company’s business model and provided the necessary plans to take it to market.

“From a strategic standpoint, that’s important to us because we don’t get much strategic advice,” he said. “They’re helping pair us with potential clients to expand to Tampa, Miami and Orlando. GrowFL has the connections we don’t.”

Other companies have benefited from GrowFL’s assistance around the state. They range from companies such as Envirobrite, a Sanford manufacturer of retrofit energy-efficient lighting kits to help reduce energy consumption; Germfree, an Ormond Beach manufacturer of biosafety equipment; and First GREEN Bank, a Mount Dora financial institution with eco-friendly principles.

“GrowFL’s purpose has always been to help companies overcome obstacles and become prosperous,” said Tom O’Neal, associate vice president of Research & Commercialization at UCF and executive director of GrowFL. “Over the past five years, we have proven again and again that we are doing just that. Now we are being recognized as a major catalyst for helping second-stage companies succeed and for enhancing Florida’s economy through job creation. That is an accomplishment we can be proud of.”

GrowFL was created at UCF by the Florida Legislature in 2009 to help companies boost their profitability and performance. UCF’s program was expanded to the state level in partnership with the Edward Lowe Foundation and the National Center for Economic Gardening as a laboratory to foster economic development.

Typical assistance to companies includes providing market research and new-media marketing, monitoring industry trends, assisting innovation, developing teams, and acquiring consumer feedback.

The new Regional Economic Impact Study was conducted by Vernet Lasrado, an assistant director in the Office of Research & Commercialization at UCF, as part of the program’s ongoing documentation of its productivity and sustainability.

The study pointed out the cost efficiency of GrowFL’s job creation in both rural and urban settings.  During the study period between the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years, GrowFL received a variety of state, local and private sector funding sources investing $2.61 million in the GrowFL program.  For every $1 invested into the program there was a return on investment of $7.58.

Other findings showed that GrowFL’s participating companies, as of June 30, 2013:

  • represented 13,493 total jobs in Florida
  • had an estimated sales output of $1.14 billion (since the GrowFL program’s inception)
  • contributed $2.33 billion (since the GrowFL program’s inception) to the Florida economy
  • “The GrowFL program has provided not only a proven pathway to a better future through innovation but a field-tested, robust, low-cost program for getting there,” said Chris Gibbons, founder of the National Center for Economic Gardening.

    He said entrepreneurial growth companies create jobs that are well-paying with benefits, and they innovate much of the new wealth in the United States.

    “Providing them essential tools to accelerate that process has turned out to be an effective solution to restoring the American Dream,” he said. “UCF has been an ideal host since the beginning by continuing to focus on creating support for entrepreneurship and innovation.”

    For additional information or if you are a high-growth company and want to become involved in the GrowFL program, click here or call 407-823-6384.