SATOP has formed Alliances with Economic Development Organizations (EDOs) to help market the program to small businesses.

When people discuss the Orlando economy, images of Disney World and other world-renowned attractions often come to mind. However, what drives Orlando’s economy is more than just tourism. The Orlando area is home to 4,000 manufacturers, 3,800 high tech companies, and is ranked number one in the nation by Viewpoint 2002 as the metropolitan area projected to have the highest annual growth. Orlando has evolved from a city founded on the citrus industry to a major hub for technology.

The Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission is the organization leading the charge in terms of the area’s economic development, and they are also the organization responsible for connecting local small business owners with the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program. “The Metro Orlando EDC is one of our veteran participants and they have been helping to market SATOP since its early days. It’s a great partnership and many positive results have been realized through working with them,” states Paul Secor, SATOP Director.

In fact, some of those positive results are evident in this quarter’s newsletter. Two of the success stories contained within this issue feature businesses that accessed SATOP through the assistance provided by the Metro Orlando EDC. DampRid Inc. of Orlando and Smart Biometrics of Sanford both learned of SATOP through Jonathan Gemmen, Director of Corporate Business Development at the Metro Orlando EDC. According to Gemmen, the EDC uses all of the possible channels it has to promote SATOP. “We consistently publish information in our newsletter, make presentations at local business incubators, work with the Florida MEP for company referrals, and feature SATOP at trade shows and manufacturing seminars. We believe that the more we promote SATOP, the more likely it is for a business to realize the benefits of the program,” states Gemmen.

This aggressive approach to helping local businesses is representative of how the EDC works to balance its recruitment efforts with hands-on retention efforts as well. “In addition to recruiting new industry to the region, another focus of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission is to assist existing companies with local expansions,” says EDC President/CEO Raymond Gilley. “NASA''s SATOP program is another beneficial, no-cost resource we can introduce to our clients.”

The Metro Orlando EDC currently represents SATOP in Orange, Lake, Osceola, and Seminole Counties. Although this is a great deal of geography to cover, the organization uses its network of contacts to bolster its efforts. “The EDC has been very helpful in introducing SATOP to new groups in Central Florida. People are often skeptical that SATOP is free, but the EDC is able to help us overcome that skepticism when they talk about their first-hand experience with the program. They have
a great deal of credibility throughout the four county region and that certainly helps us,” declares Paul Secor.

While the Metro Orlando EDC has a large geographic area to draw from, they still rely upon one-on-one communication as their number one way to promote SATOP. "It’s really about having a personal touch and working with a business owner to understand their needs. We’ll actually help a business owner fill out a request form, and we are not afraid to contact someone more than once if we think they can benefit from SATOP. When working with area companies, we want to supply valuable resources to business owners. SATOP helps us do that,” adds Gemmen.