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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jul. 30, 201412:00 PM EST

Chamber's Jax Bridges program provides mentoring and capital for small businesses


The JAX Chamber announced this morning the creation of Jax Bridges, a program to connect small businesses with mentoring, capital access and contacts with larger companies to help earn business with established corporations.

The program is designed to be the facilitator of supplier quality and development in Northeast Florida, helping smaller companies grow and promoting supply chain diversification among corporations, according to a news release.

“Small companies are looking for growth opportunities and access to the larger companies in the region,” said Carlton Robinson, senior director of the JAX Chamber Entrepreneurial Growth Division, in a news release. “Larger companies want to help develop local business and know that when our small businesses expand and create jobs in our community, we all benefit.”

The goal is to facilitate $100 million in contracts to small business annually, he said.

Strategies will be:

• Access to capital. The chamber has reached agreements with several local lending institutions for opportunities to qualified small businesses. Lines of credit and signed contracts being used as collateral for operating costs are two examples.

• Business exchange. The program will provide listings of available contracting opportunities and feature a forum for small and large businesses to develop relationships.

• CEO roundtable. Top executives from Northeast Florida businesses will talk about ways to grow small business.

• Entrepreneurial education. Trainings, courses that will help small businesses with a growth plan.

• Teaming preparation. Will use the established model of Florida 8(a)Alliance to train business owners with established companies.

The main components of the program are preparing small businesses for the opportunity and encouraging large corporations to provide the companies

an opportunity to earn the business.

“You can’t just tell corporations to do this because you think it’s the right thing to do. This has to make business sense and this program will get small businesses ready so it will make business sense for larger corporations looking for suppliers,” said Derek Lott, senior director of supplier diversity for Bi-Lo Holdings.

John Delaney, University of North Florida president and incoming chamber chair, said in the news release the organization is positioned to connect those small businesses with corporate leaders throughout the community.

“This is one of those ideas that sounds like a no-brainer, but if you look around the country, no one else is doing it,” Delaney said.

Jax Bridges aligns with the region’s strategic economic development plan, Innovate Northeast Florida.

During the past two years, the goal of Innovate has been to drive regional job creation in each target industry and advance areas including entrepreneurship and innovation, talent, business climate and physical infrastructure.

Since then, 67,000 jobs have been added to the region, dropping the unemployment rate from 9.4 percent to 6.3 percent.

The application period runs through Aug. 20.

For information on the program, visit

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