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Focus on connections earns Hillsborough County EDI2 a TiETAN award

Margie Manning



Jennifer Whelihan, Hillsborough County EDI2

Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Innovation Initiative strengthens the services and resources that directly support entrepreneurs, growing technology and innovation startups, jobs and private investment.

The program, Hillsborough County EDI2, actively helps startups and founders, but it’s the companies that slip under the radar that concern economic development manager Jennifer Whelihan.

“Every year, we find tech startups in Hillsborough County struggling to make it because they were not plugged in to the many resources available to nurture them and help them thrive,” Whelihan said. “In 2018, we were laser-focused on making the tech community aware of the abundant programs that exist to support them.”

Whelihan and Hillsborough County EDI2’s efforts are being recognized by TiE Tampa Bay, which will give the organization its Community Champion award at TiEcon Florida on Feb. 16. The award recognizes a community leader who sponsored major Tampa Bay community events in 2018.

Hillsborough County EDI2, along with Tampa Bay Wave and University of South Florida, engaged the Startup Genome project in 2018, helping to put Tampa and Hillsborough County on the research giant’s map, Whelihan said.

This year, she said, the initiative would continue the momentum, making the tech community aware of everything that exists for them and how different new resources may also support them.

“We work closely with organizations, companies, and entrepreneurs to ensure their voices and needs are heard and met,” Whelihan said. “This includes increased connections to high-quality mentors and support; access to capital for entrepreneurs through public-private partnerships; collaboration among the county’s entities and resources; commercialization of institutional research; and aligning county resources to be an ‘advocate-in-chief’ by supporting research, educational and business development efforts.”

She highlighted Homebrew Hillsborough, a monthly coffee networking event for techies and entrepreneurs. The next event is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 25 at USF Connect, when the organization will introduce 30 incubator companies.

Whelihan and EDI2 are among five individuals and organizations receiving 2019 TiETAN awards at TiEcon Florida, a day-long event at the Sam & Martha Gibbons Alumni Center at University of South Florida in Tampa that will bring together entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and business professionals from throughout the area, and will include speakers, breakout panels and a pitch competition. The schedule and registration details are here.




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