Southeast Florida’s small businesses and entrepreneurs are a key driver of the economy. Nearly 9 out of 10 businesses in the seven counties have fewer than 20 employees. The region also has 778,000 sole proprietors, nearly half of all such entrepreneurs in Florida.
This emphasis on small business reflects Southeast Florida’s history as a draw for new residents from both the United States and other nations, many of whom bring an entrepreneurial spirit. This trend will likely continue in the future as international migration remains a key source of population growth, as the economy shifts toward innovation clusters, and as traditional employer/employee relationships evolve toward greater reliance on contract employees and virtual teams.
Small businesses include a wide range of enterprises, from mom-and-pop grocery stores and T-shirt stands to web developers and financial consultants. While ensuring a healthy business climate where every business can thrive, the region should give particular emphasis to the small businesses and entrepreneurs who support the targeted industry clusters and are involved in global commerce. Key needs include:
- Developing a thicker web of entrepreneurial support resources, including assistance with research and develop-ment, technology transfer and commercialization, market research, business planning, targeted training, export pro- motion, mentoring, and networking initiatives.
- Providing physical space for research and development, business incubation, and collaboration, including innovative concepts such as fab labs and hackerspace.
- Streamlining and improving the consistency of business licensing, permitting, and other regulatory functions in Southeast Florida.
- Expanding access to capital for startup and growing businesses, with emphasis on angel, seed, and early-stage venture cap ital. Southeast Florida has more than 150 banks and pockets of great wealth, yet private investment in small businesses and innovation and redevelopment is limited compared to other regions. The region should implement tools for encouraging private investment and leveraging available federal resources, such as community development financial institutions, new market tax credits, and other types of investment funds.