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In just one year, the Florida High Tech Corridor and Orange County government’s Cenfluence partnership to strengthen Central Florida’s economy and spur job creation beyond hospitality and tourism has emerged as an innovative and critical, but underutilized resource for Central Florida industry.
The “clustering” initiative is a formalized effort to strengthen collaboration within and between four industry clusters in Orange County and the surrounding region through the delivery of specialized business support resources.
Under the partnership, The Florida High Tech Corridor offers a small team of experts dedicated to leading daily operations of the Cenfluence cluster management initiative, while Orange County Government provides critical funding and cluster member recruitment, according to Jack Henkel, Cenfluence Cluster Program Director.
Clusters are regional networks of businesses, suppliers and service providers, academic institutions, and economic organizations within interdependent industries. Membership is free with funding provided by Orange County Government.
“We follow a framework that is internationally recognized and proven as a best practice for building and managing clusters,” said Henkel. “The first four Cenfluence clusters represent emerging sectors enabled by technologies with a rich history in Central Florida that offer natural opportunities for cross-cluster collaboration and the potential for significant growth.”
Cenfluence’s clusters are:
- Energy & Environmental Sciences
- Gaming, Entertainment & eSports
- Life Sciences
- Learning Sciences & Human Performance
Members of a cluster can achieve business growth in the U.S. and abroad through support from Cenfluence’s team in the areas of business development, grant funding, research and development, technology transfer and commercialization.
Cenfluence currently supports over 60 existing cluster members, helping them leverage industry-specific opportunities, with plans to expand the initiative to serve other clusters in the future, said Henkel.
“Cenfluence resources help members access tangible business opportunities, develop new collaborative partnerships, find new revenue streams, and overcome barriers to their growth. While our priority is serving existing members in Orange County, we also have an eye on expansion and welcome companies from Seminole, Brevard, Volusia, Lake, Polk and Osceola counties to get involved,” he said.
Increasing awareness of these resources for businesses in Central Florida is a priority for Cenfluence.
“We know cluster members are not fully aware of all the regional business resources available or know how to use them,” said Henkel. “An early objective is to raise awareness of what’s out there and help cluster members navigate these resources for maximum utilization.”
One of the first tasks the Cenfluence team does for new members of a cluster is conduct a confidential needs assessment to learn about their business objectives and uncover opportunities and challenges the initiative can support.
“This intimate knowledge positions us to proactively connect cluster members with relevant resources and partnership opportunities,” Henkel said. “It also reveals the possibility for meaningful collaboration between companies where their talents and needs intersect. “
In addition to collaboration, Cenfluence facilitates working groups which drive strategies addressing industry-specific opportunities.
“Cenfluence is a conduit for public-private partnership. Together, our teams can speak the language of both government agencies and tech companies, allowing us to facilitate prosperous business relationships and showcase the applications of industry innovations in the public sector,” said Henkel.
As Cenfluence grows, it will expand the resources available by developing complementary new services to fill any gaps and increase support in the region.
“Long term, our goal is to grow Cenfluence into a world-renowned initiative serving multiple innovative industry clusters across all 23 counties of The Corridor region,” said Henkel.
Formerly known as the Orange County Cluster Initiative, Cenfluence was established in February 2021 as one element of the County’s $2 million effort to stimulate and diversify the local economy amid COVID-19 impacts.
Cenfluence joins only 20 other cluster-like organizations applying the U.S. Small Business Administration’s proven method in the U.S. and Canada, positioning the region as an innovator internationally.
Businesses can learn more and sign up for cluster membership at Cenfluence.com/.
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