Time ripe for recruiting creative class to Bradenton

July 12, 2013 

When people think of Florida, the vision features gorgeous beaches and cruises, theme parks and thrill rides, great dining and towering resorts. Vacation land. Snowbirds. Spring break.

But entrepreneurship?

Absolutely.

And Bradenton could become one of the places with a bright future in that arena. A groundswell of support appears to be developing to propel Manatee County deeper into the world of technology and innovation.

As Herald business writer Charles Schelle reported Sunday, Sarasota's blossoming technology incubator known as the HuB is looking at downtown Bradenton for potential expansion. HuB founder Rich Swier Jr. recently toured downtown led by a team of the city's economic development gurus.

He must have been impressed by those tour guides. "We would be extremely fortunate to be part of a forward-thinking and business-minded community," he remarked to Schelle.

HuB houses 30 creative industry businesses in downtown Sarasota, some paying little to no rent as start-ups with scant cash flow. Their creative energy feeds off one another as these entrepreneurs share their skills and expertise to the benefit of all. HuB also creates an atmosphere where other creative types can mix and mingle, sharing ideas amid a social setting.

This is exactly one of the pivotal goals of Realize Bradenton, borne out of a public visioning process several years ago. The organization's 10-year cultural master plan hinges on attracting the creative class to the city -- and an incubator on par with HuB would accomplish that mission.

The prospects of HuB here follow a series of events in early May that brought more than 300 business entrepreneurs to downtown Bradenton and elsewhere in Manatee County. Spark Growth and Barcamp Sarasota-Bradenton collaborated with Realize Bradenton to stage various presentations designed to appeal to technology visionaries, venture capitalists and other innovative minds.

Also in May, Southern Business & Development, a magazine that concentrates on economic development in the South, selected Bradenton as among the best small American downtowns.

Citing Riverwalk and the Manatee Performing Arts Center as key pieces of revitalization, the magazine stated the city "welcomes its guests with the charm of a laid-back coastal town ... (and) a bustling area with an eclectic mix of arts, culture and heritage."

That should help business recruitments and economic development -- and give a boost to attracting more of the creative class.

But back to Florida being known for entrepreneurship. The Sunshine State measured about 30 percent more entrepreneurial than the overall score for the country. Miami Herald business writer Nancy Dahlberg, who specializes in entrepreneurship, reported that in a recent blog post.

The 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor U.S. Report, compiled by Babson College and Baruch College, determined that Florida's entrepreneurial activity rate stood at 17 percent, surpassing the national rate of almost 13 percent.

"We're less afraid of risk, and we're more likely to take our business global," Dahlberg wrote.

The economic brain trust in Bradenton and Manatee County recognizes the high value of growing a creative class and a technology sector. Landing a technology business incubator like HuB would be a grand measure of success.

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