Beaver Street stays busy, soon to be bigger
by David Chapman
An economic recession hasn’t dimmed Jackie Perry’s optimism for the entrepreneurial spirit. Every day the Beaver Street Enterprise Center executive director goes to the office, she sees the will of small business owners looking to succeed in the face of economic adversity.
Through business counseling, mentoring, providing access to technology at its facility and affordable office space, Perry and her staff help them along the way. In addition, be it a microloan or additional voice in the ear of banking officials, Beaver Street Enterprises can sometimes assist early-stage business owners acquire capital — one of the more difficult things to acquire in a marketplace with tighter lending regulations.
“It makes you smile,” she said, “watching businesses grow from an idea into something bigger.”
Monday, though, Perry will have more reasons to smile when the Center is visited by the likes of U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, Mayor John Peyton and Council member Warren Jones among others to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new building that will serve as the next step in assisting business owners.
“It’s pretty exciting and part of what is keeping us busy,” she said. “When it’s done, it will really make a difference.”
The new two-story business incubator will take the same philosophy and approach that has made the Center a success with early-stage and small businesses and take it to the next level with assistance and support for stage-two and high-growth companies. The need for such a facility, said Perry, is warranted.
“It was needed,” she said. “What we found was that businesses who grew and graduated from the Center sometimes had problems when they went out there to different areas on their own ... this building will provide those businesses ready to progress the technology, support and space needed to grow.”
Already, said Perry, several prospective tenants — many from the Center — could make the move across the street to the stage-two business facility. Discussion of the Jacksonville Hospitality Institute, a Fresh Ministries program currently in the Center that provides training to unemployed and underemployed adults to land jobs in the hospitality industry, occupying the top floor is underway, but other potential tenants including a home care business and an electrical contracting company.
One company contemplating the move is one of the Center’s success stories, the engineering firm Peters & Yaffee Inc. The group specializes in transportation and traffic engineering and opened in August 2008, utilizing the Center for its resources and guidance on the way to winning a couple City contracts and several consulting projects with large companies. The group did some pro bono engineering work for the Center relating to its parking situation, and while the next year will be filled with competition for Florida Department of Transportation projects, a move into the building is possible said Russell Yaffee, Peters & Yaffee Inc. vice president.
“We started out in an office the size of a shoe box,” said Yaffee, “then grew and needed three times the space.
“The Center and Jackie have been great to us ... she is really dialed in and they guide you along the way.”
The firm began with just Yaffee and President Dow Peters, but has grown in staff, which is one of the key things Perry is looking to accomplish with the small businesses that call the Center home.
“Everyone’s No. 1 priority right now is jobs,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can to help these businesses grow and putting them in the position they need to be to hire new people.”
Currently, the Center is around 90 percent occupied and Perry is proud to point out that they haven’t lost a business in the last three years. She credits the concept to the tools business owners and entrepreneurs have available, including its part in a recently launched Web site, www.jaxsmallbizhelp.org.
“We’re going to just keep doing what we do to make them succeed,” said Perry.