Muoio seeks to bolster city’s entrepreneur ecosystem
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BY WADE MILLWARD - PALM BEACH POST STAFF WRITER
BOCA RATON —
A six-seater golf cart packed with members of the West Palm Beach mayor’s office and Florida Atlantic University representatives zipped along the streets and sidewalks of the Boca Raton campus in what was the city’s latest effort to foster its entrepreneur community.
While touring the university’s business college and Technology Business Incubator Tuesday, Mayor Jeri Muoio sought advice and partnership from the university as the city and local entrepreneurs plan a center downtown to help develop the business community. FAU representatives vocally supported working with the city.
Muoio has been speaking with FAU for about three months, and citywide economic development has been one of her goals since she was elected, said the mayor’s executive assistant, Chris Roog. Colleges located in West Palm Beach are also participating.
One of the entrepreneurs involved in the effort is Nick Mohnacky, who runs Surfr App, a smartphone downloadable that lets surfers document and share their surfing experiences.
West Palm needs to join other cities in supporting a growing national trend of people starting small, niche businesses and shunning working for a corporation, he said.
“It’s more than an idea,” he said. “It’s a movement at this point.”
The plan could include a center offering resources, including legal and financial consulting, and an incubator, a low-cost commercial space that would provide management assistance to new small businesses.
The center’s location, look, functions and funding are still being discussed, Mohnacky and city officials said.
During her tour, Muoio expressed interest in opening a space similar to FAU’s Technology Business Incubator. She said she was also looking at an incubator at the University of Central Florida.
Mohnacky, owner of Enoch Surfboards in West Palm Beach and a former marketing consultant for The Palm Beach Post, said the city’s space should have a café environment to promote networking and encourage young people to keep their businesses in the city. Retaining young people was a goal echoed by Muoio during her FAU visit.
The city has suffered what Mohnacky called a “brain drain” of smart young people taking their businesses elsewhere. He hopes the effort to foster the business community will change that and encourage more people to stay.
“We need to bring people together,” he said. “We’ve just got to get everyone on the same page.”
Mohnacky and the mayor’s office are also planning a series of business networking events in West Palm Beach starting Nov. 15.
He saw how such events can help a business’ credibility and funding after MoleShopper, a customer service app he was involved with, won a competition at an Orlando event last year, Mohnacky said. The app received about $5,000, access to legal services and exposure.
Seabron A. Smith, executive director for Center for Technology, Enterprise and Development Inc., which has a 2,700-square-foot site in West Palm Beach, welcomed the presence of another resource space for small businesses.
Smith’s nonprofit, funded by the county, helps people start businesses by offering training and technical assistance, he said.
“There’s nothing wrong with another center,” he said. “It just means more services for our businesses.”
Building the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in West Palm Beach