Jax Bridges new program for small business help

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

Late last month the JAX Chamber unveiled Jax Bridges, a new program to help small businesses connect with larger companies for mentoring, capital access and contacts in an effort to earn business with established corporations.

According to Carlton Robinson, senior director of the Chamber’s entrepreneurial growth division, there are more than 140,000 businesses in the area that can either be a help or that need help to grow. Of those businesses, said Ted Carter, executive director of the City’s Office of Economic Development, more than 91,000 employ less than 10 people. Often that means no one in the company has the wherewithal – time or resources – to get the business prepared for opportunities to earn the business of a larger corporation.

“Jacksonville is hitting its stride,” said Carter. “Quantum growth will come from small companies. This [program] is a public-private partnership that will really make this an outstanding success.”

Robinson stated that the goal of the program in its first year is to facilitate $100 million in contracts to small businesses, by connecting small- to medium-size business owners with leading businesses in the area.

“It will be a unified effort between resource providers, corporations, small businesses and entrepreneurs to increase the deal flow in northeast Florida,” said Robinson.
Business owners that sign up through the program’s portal – www.jaxbridges.com – will step through a qualification process that helps them perfect their plans and strategies.
Application to the program does not guarantee acceptance into the program as there is a matchmaking process to pair the mentoring and education needs of the small business owner to the opportunity that may result in access to capital. The application period ends Aug. 20 and Jax Bridges participants will be announced on Aug. 25.

Beginning Sept. 3, participants will spend the next 10 weeks in entrepreneurial education, sessions with lending institutions for access to capital, and teaming and strategy activities. During Global Entrepreneurship Week in November, the JAX Chamber will host the Exchange Event on Nov. 20.
Bi-Lo Holdings, which includes Winn-Dixie, is one of the large SM corporations creating a mentorship to help small businesses get ready to be a supplier to local companies such as Winn-Dixie. “When we successfully connect with local businesses in our community, it makes us a better retailer,” said Derek Lott, senior director of supplier diversity for Bi-Lo.

Robinson stressed that participants must earn the opportunity, stating “You’ve got to compete. Business is a sport.” He estimates that there will be 100 to 150 businesses involved in the entrepreneurial education phase of this year’s program, but in the matchmaking process there could be more if they qualify.

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