To stimulate job creation and foster the development of emerging growth-oriented companies, Seminole County and the Florida Economic Gardening Institute at the University of Central Florida today announced a partnership to offer an economic gardening program for qualified businesses in Seminole County. 

The initiative will provide specialized services and support for CEOs of second-stage businesses. Second stage is generally defined by this initiative as for-profit businesses with headquarters in Seminole County with between 7 and 100 employees.

“We recognize the value these businesses bring to our community, and we are committed to offering proven tools to help them reach their potential,” said Bill McDermott, director of Economic Development for Seminole County.

Seminole County’s investment in economic gardening augments previous investments made by UCF, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and Orange County.

Services provided by the Economic Gardening Institute at UCF are comparable to those of a Fortune 500 company’s market research department. Services include technical assistance in the areas of business strategy, market research, competitive analysis, web/social media strategy and search engine optimization. These services are designed to help a company increase sales rapidly. With increased sales, businesses will drive the creation of new jobs in the county.

Participants will also be eligible to participate in a CEO Roundtable to discuss business practices and management strategies with CEOs of second-stage businesses.

A participating business must provide product(s) and/or services within and beyond its current location to regional, national or international markets. Physicians’ offices, retail businesses and restaurants may not qualify. Businesses that are interested in receiving services can apply at

The Economic Gardening Institute’s signature GrowFL program has helped more than 400 companies create more than 1,400 new jobs statewide since November 2009.  In September,1 state funding for the initiative ended, and the program began working directly with communities to tailor offerings to meet the needs of their particular industries.

Seminole County is providing $50,000 for the initiative. UCF will provide the economic gardening services and manage the application process. Technical assistance services will be provided free of charge, while costs for participation in CEO Roundtables will be shared by Seminole County and the participating businesses.

Several Seminole County CEOs and companies took advantage of the state-funded GrowFL pilot program. The group includes Richard Sweat, president and CEO of .decimal Inc., a Sanford-based manufacturer of custom devices to target radiation therapy. He credited GrowFL with helping his company expand into Japan and Canada.

“Not only has GrowFL provided invaluable market research for .decimal’s international expansion efforts, but they have also provided excellent networking opportunities with some of Florida’s top second-stage company CEOs,” he said.

“We like nothing better than hearing about the success of our client companies,” said Tom O’Neal, associate vice president for Research and Commercialization at UCF and executive director of the Florida Economic Gardening Institute. “Companies that receive support to grow in an area are more likely to stay in that area, and in these tough economic times we want to help as many communities as possible keep their lifeblood.”