Commentary on the future of new business

The Future of New Business Looks Bright Indeed By Brian Rowland Originally published in the Apr/May 2011 issue of 850 Business Magazine


If you’re worried about the entrepreneurial spirit of Northwest Florida’s youth, I have a word of advice: don’t be. It is alive and well — and our cover story in this issue of 850 stands as proof. An important aspect of fostering growth within an economic region like Northwest Florida is to inspire an entrepreneurial spirit. And we here at 850 felt we were in the perfect position to do just that. So, last year we embarked on a journey to see if we could find a way to give wings to the dreams of local budding entrepreneurs, the men and women we expect to become the next generation of business leaders in our region.

Editor Linda Kleindienst met with representatives from several of the state universities and colleges in our 16-county area and spoke with others around the nation. As a result, we decided to launch Northwest Florida’s first business competition, the 850 Collegiate Entrepreneur Invitational.

We invited undergraduates at our public universities and colleges to submit their business plans for a chance to win a $5,000 grand prize. Entries came in from Chipola College, Florida A&M University, Florida State University, Northwest Florida State College and the University of West Florida. Finally, nine were chosen to compete before a four-person judging panel.

My sincere thanks go to the individuals who judged the competition: Dale Brill, president of the Florida Chamber Foundation; Rusty Bozman, senior vice president of corporate development for The St. Joe Company; Marty Lanahan, Regions Bank area executive for North Florida and city president for Jacksonville; and Eric Miller, vice president/general manager of CenturyLink North Florida and Alabama.

My thanks and admiration also go to those students who competed. I sat to the side of the room, listening as each detailed his or her business dream. Some were nervous, some weren’t. But all were professional.

At the end of the day, the grand prize went to Krys-Tina Scott of Fort Walton Beach, a student at Northwest Florida State College. She enthralled the judges with her presentation, her style and her go-get-’em attitude. Read about her business and the judges’ reactions, starting on page 22.

We look forward to making this an annual event, so if you know any budding college entrepreneurs, please encourage them to look for the announcement of our 2011 contest this fall.

Taking a look ahead, I wanted to alert you to a special commercial real estate package we have planned for the June/July issue of 850. We’ll be taking an in-depth look at the state of the industry in Northwest Florida to see if commercial properties — or vacant lands designed for commercial use — are beginning to be in higher demand. We’ll have the experts tell you how we compare to the rest of the state and take a look at our region’s strengths and weaknesses.

Later in the year we will be giving you a look at how Northwest Florida is faring in the international trade market — and what we can expect when the expansion of the Panama Canal is finally completed, doubling its capacity, in 2014. Just last month, Gov. Rick Scott led a two-day trade mission to Panama. Scott has made trade with Central and South America a priority issue for his administration.

As always, if you have any story ideas or suggestions for 850, we encourage you to contact us. And I urge you to check out our digital edition online any time.