The Immokalee Business Development Center, launched in 2011 by the Immokalee CRA, will become its own, free-standing organization by the end of 2013.
The business development center, known as the IBDC or, sometimes, IMMBIZ, has guided the creation or expansion of over a dozen Immokalee businesses in the past two years. Collier County Commissioners, sitting as the Immokalee CRA board of directors, approved independence for the center in January. The lawmakers will be asked May 28 to approve IBDC's formal steps toward independence.
"Because we will be an independent organization, we can expand to regional efforts," explained Marie Capita, an Immokalee attorney and manager of the IBDC. "Being non-profit - and not a governmental organization- opens up all new ways to raise money for our work through grant opportunities from private sources."
Banks and other entrepreneurial organizations have been anxious to partner with the business development center but government restrictions sometimes inhibit their full participation.
Capita said the plan includes dissolving the center as an ancillary arm of the Immokalee CRA and establishing it as it's own 501(c)3 non-profit organization by December 31, moving its offices onto the Immokalee campus of Hodges University and purchasing some of its current equipment from the CRA.
With its new organizational structure and independence, the IBDC will be even more capable to helping budding entrepreneurs achieve their dreams of business ownership.
The IBDC business assistance program is the lifeline of the center.
Members are enrolled in a two year program which begins with a six-week Entrepreneur School, builds through creation of a business plan with clear milestones and is monitored one-on-one until graduation at the end of the two year program.
Members are provided assistance with the full spectrum of business support from budgeting, bookkeeping to marketing.
To help new businesses the IBDC, created the IBDC MicroEnterprise Loan Fund in partnership with Florida Community Bank and One by One Leadership.
The IBDC has also become Immokalee entrepreneurs’ link to assistance for small business provided by the U.S. government. Three businesses were qualified this year alone for U.S. Department of Labor Section 3 Certification, which provides additional benefits to businesses owned by Americans from traditionally disadvantaged circumstances and backgrounds.
Partnerships now exist with SCORE, FGCU Florida Small Business Development Center, iTECH, Florida Community Bank. SunCoast Teachers Credit Union, BB&T Bank, One on One Leadership, US SBA, Ave Maria University, RCMA, and the Immokalee Chamber of Commerce.