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A New Home for Excellent Entrepreneurs

Earlier this week, Tallahassee was named one of the nation’s top cities for encouraging entrepreneurship. One local program has done a lot to create that positive environment for new home-grown business.

Larry Lynch has been the head guy at the Entrepreneurial Excellence Program – or “EEP” - since its very beginning.

“EEP has been in place now for 6 years,” Lynch said. “This is going to be our 12th class. And I’ve got to tell you, I never thought it would get past the first class, because we’re Tallahassee and entrepreneurship really didn’t hit it off, but we’ve now had 130 new companies come through the program in the last 11 classes.”

There is one very different aspect to class number 12, however. Its 11 predecessors had all been conducted under the auspices of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County. With the demise of that organization several months ago, the Entrepreneurial Excellence Program needed a new home. So Ron Miller came to the rescue. He’s the executive director of the Leon County Research and Development Authority, the organization that runs Innovation Park.

“You know we saw this great program for the community out there without a home and it fit perfectly within the mission of the Leon County Research and Development Authority at Innovation Park,” Miller said. “And we are really looking to help build a bigger entrepreneurial community that at some point will be interested in – or at least some of the participants will be interested - in commercializing some of the technology that’s coming out of the universities.”

…and just maybe setting up a research, or even a production facility, at Innovation Park. Program Director Lynch says the next Entrepreneurial Excellence class begins October 4th and wraps up November 3rd. In between, the one-dozen potential companies will get intensive instruction in such things as sales and marketing, financing, team building and a host of other critical skills, presented by local experts in the various fields.

“EEP is taught with local volunteers, so you’ve got guys like Bill Holliman who’s a local IP attorney,” Lynch said. “I can’t get rid of these folks! They keep volunteering year after year after year and they’re great. But every time someone leaves the class, they’re getting their cell phone numbers and if they have a question or whenever they need to talk, they’ve got built-in mentors.”

Plus, Lynch said there are many of the people who have already been through the program.

“Some of the folks who have been a success are now being mentors to some of the folks who are just starting out as new entrepreneurs. So we’re kind of completing the cycle here. And so it’s Tallahassee, Florida; the place where we’ve only got education and the public sector has become a great place to start a business and run a new business.”

A sentiment echoed by the program’s new landlord, Ron Miller.

“The EEP program has really proven itself and not just in the tech/commercialization (area), but the impact it’s had on the whole community. And the whole community is behind this whole entrepreneurial push, from city and county government to the private sector, they all know how this is going to help the whole community.”

To find out more about the upcoming Entrepreneurial Excellence Program class, check out: http://innovation-park.com/

Follow @flanigan_tom

Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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