This Week in Jacksonville: Business Edition – Helping make the River City the ‘small business capital of the world’

If Northeast Florida is going to grow economically, it will ride the coattails of small businesses.

That’s the message from two of the city of Jacksonville’s leaders on the impact of small businesses and what entrepreneurs need to succeed.

“I’m super excited,” Dr. Carlton Robinson said. “With our Jax USA partnership, our strategic plan, the title of it is ‘The Future is Now.’ So we’re excited about the opportunities that are here.”

Robinson is chief innovation officer for JAX Chamber, where he’s been vice president of entrepreneurial growth. He founded and launched the JAX Bridges program, which educates entrepreneurs. He leads the Venture Services Division is focused on the growth opportunities for small business owners.

Robinson joins us in this episode of This Week in Jacksonville: Business Edition.

Robinson said there is a “tremendous amount of talent” in the River City that needs to be connected to opportunities.

“And the more agencies, whether it’s the city, whether it’s the Jaguars, where the Chamber, whether it’s a lot of different industries, the opportunity is there for us to be amazing and to help the mayor meet her goal of Jacksonville being one of the small business capitals in the US,” Robinson said.

An expert working with the mayor is Gregory Grant. Gregory Grant is the Administrator for the City of Jacksonville’s Officer of Equal Business Opportunity and the Jacksonville Small & Emerging Business (JSEB). He is an expert working with the mayor.

“One of the benefits of JSEB is we have the ‘Access to Capital’ program and the capital is collateralized with the contract,” Grant said.

JSEB focuses on maximizing procurement opportunities in the private sector and local government. The JSEB bucket of priorities includes education, community engagement, access to capital, diversification and contract opportunities.

“I can tell you for us on the education side,” Grant said. “I found that there is a big need for small businesses to understand the contracting space, to understand how procurement works and to really just get engaged with the education side of it. Oftentimes as entrepreneurs, it’s easy to execute before you educate, and then you kind of get that on-the-job experience.”

“What I’m finding with working with agencies is that we’re now able to educate firms, which then makes them more sustainable on contracts and perform much better,” Grant said.

Robinson adds, “This is where we’ve adopted this open innovation approach. If we’re taking a look at innovation and entrepreneurship as a whole are large enterprises, they typically have problems in search of solutions. Small business owners and entrepreneurs have these solutions, and they’re in search of problems. And so what we need in the middle is very reputable organizations like the city, the chamber, the university, to help facilitate those connections.”

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