Women starting their own companies will have more space at UF’s Innovation Hub.

The Innovation Hub, located on Southwest Second Avenue, will begin construction on a Women’s Entrepreneurial Center in late Spring, wrote Jane Muir, the director of the Innovation Hub, in an email. 

In addition to the center, the 55,000-square-foot facility will include a new office space and labs.

Muir said construction should be complete by the end of 2017.

To fund the construction, the Innovation Hub received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration for the project, she said. 

UF donated an additional $9 million.

She said the Women’s Entrepreneurial Center will encourage women to form their own companies.

“Women lag far behind men in the rate and frequency at which they start up new companies,” Muir said. “For the U.S. economy to grow and produce jobs at an accelerated rate, women must become a much higher percentage of entrepreneurial leaders across all business segments.”

She said the Innovation Hub, which was opened in 2012, created about 760 jobs in Gainesville in its first three and a half years. The space is at capacity with its current startups.

“We are basically operating at capacity, and while there are always companies moving in and out, we cannot meet the current demand for space,” she said.

Yatit Thakker, the CEO of Omninox Publishing, said he moved his educational software company into the Innovation Hub in Summer 2013. He said he’s excited for the expansion.

“It’s a place where a lot of key people in the Florida ecosystem are,” the 24-year-old said.

In addition to office space, the Innovation Hub has given him access to mentors and resources to help his company grow.

He said he has noticed a higher demand for office space in the building.

“More recently, I think there’s pretty much a waiting list,” Thakker said.

Jonathan Katz, a UF finance senior, works on his app, Qwerk, at the hub with four other students.

Katz said the office’s location has helped his startup meet and learn from professional mentors.

“It’s a totally different social circle,” the 21-year-old said. “It’s totally different than going to college and just seeing students every day. It’s a professional setting.”

He said the Women’s Entrepreneurial Center will be a way to empower women who are starting companies.

“I think it’s great that they’re encouraging women to get into the entrepreneurial sector,” Katz said. “There shouldn’t be a divide that there’s more men than women.” 

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