Florida Tech to Open Women’s Business Center in Orlando Area with $750,000 SBA Grant

MELBOURNE, FLA. — The award-winning Women’s Business Center at Florida Institute of Technology will launch an Orlando-area operation early next year after receiving $750,000 in funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Central Florida Women’s Business Center (CFWBC) will serve Lake, Orange, Osceola, Volusia and Seminole counties and be centrally located.

“We applied for this grant because of the strong support and encouragement we received from the community,” said Leslie Hielema, vice president of Florida Tech’s Central Florida facility, the Orlando Center. “Entrepreneurs and small businesses are the economic engine of our region and the mission of this new Women’s Business Center will be to increase the impact of those companies.”

Hielema added, “Since we have some fantastic resources to serve the entrepreneurial community in the Orlando area, this center will offer synergistic programs that address clearly identified issues and opportunities facing women-owned businesses.”

The CFWBC is expected to open in the first-quarter 2015. It will be structured to drive economic development goals that are aligned with key emerging industry clusters in the Central Florida region. Areas of focus will include:

  • access to capital and financial fluency
  • starting and growing a technology or science company
  • leveraging technology for business innovation and growth
  • mentoring girls and women in STEM careers
  • access to resources within the women’s leadership ecosystem

This will be Florida Tech’s third such facility serving the region, with the others housed at the university’s Melbourne campus and CareerSource Brevard’s Rockledge facility.

“We are very pleased to see the continued growth of our Women’s Business Centers across Central Florida and thank the SBA for helping us expand the reach of this valuable, difference-making resource,” said Florida Tech President and CEO Anthony J. Catanese.

The WBC at Florida Tech in Melbourne has been lauded by the SBA in recent years for its work with entrepreneurs on Florida’s East Coast, including being named the 2014 SBA Advocate of the Year for Florida and an 2012 SBA Women’s Business Center of Excellence.

Those accolades helped distinguish the Florida Tech WBC from others competing for the grant funding, as did 12 letters of support from partners across the Central Florida community. The SBA awarded funding to centers in just 11 states, and the Florida Tech operation was among a handful to receive the maximum funding of $150,000 per year for five years.

Hielema will have primary responsibility for establishing the CFWBC. She will work in partnership with Beth Gitlin, executive director of the Women’s Business Center at Florid Tech. In the coming weeks the center’s location will be finalized and a director will be hired.

Also, the Women’s Business Center is currently seeking community partners to provide matching funds and support for the Orlando-area facility.

“Business owners have seen real, sustainable growth through our Melbourne and Rockledge-based programs, and we are looking forward to building on this success to assist Orlando-area companies in achieving similar results,” Gitlin said.

For more information, contact Hielema at lhielema@fit.edu or (407) 629-7132.


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