Businesses are an integral part of many Florida cities. Businesses can create jobs and drive economic growth. Businesses can also drive innovation by developing new products and services. These innovations can lead to advancements and create a competitive edge for a city.

Cities need to support and collaborate with businesses for the overall benefit of the community. Connecting and highlighting businesses can be done in various ways, from simple, low-cost ideas to programs that require more planning and resources.

The City of Coral Gables held its first Sip & Shop at the end of 2022. This ticketed event invited residents to visit downtown businesses while tasting wines and other snacks. Eighteen merchants kept their businesses open late and offered snacks, promotions or gifts. The event was held in conjunction with the holiday shopping season to help boost sales for local merchants. The City plans to host future events around other major gift-buying holidays.

Councilmember Kenny Johnson, from the City of Palm Bay, started a “Small Business Challenge” held each May. Each day during the month, Johnson visits a small business within city limits and shares their information on social media. Each social media post contains a brief overview of the business, along with contact information for the business.

“I began the small business challenge in 2020 due to the pandemic’s impact on small businesses,” Johnson said. “The challenge became so popular that I wanted to continue highlighting small businesses yearly to show our community support.”

The City of Brooksville launched a community showcase video program highlighting the City and its businesses to new and prospective businesses and residents. The videos are filmed throughout the City so viewers can experience several unique aspects of the community. Sponsorships from local businesses and nonprofits fund the program. In return, the City displays each business’s logo around the videos. The goal is for the City and businesses to market themselves to new and prospective businesses and residents.

The City of Ormond Beach teamed up with a couple of organizations to provide training for local entrepreneurs. The organizations were Kauffman FastTrac, which teaches entrepreneurs how to launch businesses, and SCORE Volusia/Flagler, which provides counseling to businesses in Volusia and Flagler counties. The 10-week course allows entrepreneurs to grow their business idea into a business plan. The City manages the program, FastTrac delivers the content, and SCORE Volusia/Flagler provides the certified business coaches. (For more information about the City’s business incentives, click here.)

Economic Development Director Brian Rademacher said, “This program is an opportunity for the City to let residents know that if they have an idea, we can help them explore it.”

The City of Alachua established a partnership program with the University of Florida’s Innovate-Accelerate program. The Innovate-Accelerate program assists entrepreneurs in accelerating the growth and development of their businesses. To encourage new business growth, the City established several programs, including incremental discounting of electric rates in newly occupied facilities, a one-year lease subsidy for recent graduates from an incubator or accelerator program, a reimbursable matching fund to assist with City fees and more.

To help new and expanding businesses, City of Panama City residents voted for an ad valorem tax exemption program. This program will allow the City Commission to grant property tax exemptions for growing or new businesses that are creating jobs, purchasing new equipment or making capital improvements. Businesses interested in the exemption undergo a review by city staff and the Bay County’s Property Appraiser and require a vote by the City Commission. If approved, the City temporarily exempts the businesses from ad valorem taxes for improvements to that business’s land or building expansion.

By Eryn Russell

Eryn Russell is a Membership Programs Specialist with the Florida League of Cities.