SF

Hurricane Irma destroyed large portions of Florida in 2017, but it paved the way for Santa Fe College to receive a grant to help revitalize the region’s economy.

The U.S. Department of Commerce gave Santa Fe a $4.8 million grant for the college’s Center for Innovation and Economic Development, said Jay Anderson, Santa Fe spokesperson. The center works with small start-up companies to develop their businesses and hire local people.

The Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration created the grant in 2017 to aid those impacted by natural disasters like Hurricane Irma, he said.

“When Hurricane Irma impacted the area, basically the entire state was named a disaster area and was eligible for this kind of a grant,” he said. “The college tried to get the grant to help rebuild and expand the Center for Innovation and Economic Development.”

Anderson did not know why it took two years to receive the grant but figured it was because the system moves slowly at times.

“Things often do move slowly,” he said. “Wheels will turn not as fast as we would like them to.”

Santa Fe was already expanding the Center for Innovation and Economic Development, but the grant will help fund it, he said. The funding will enable the center to expand and provide additional space, so it can have more incubation areas for small businesses.

“The work that the Center of Innovation and Economic Development does — helping get businesses started up — is fantastic,” he said. “We are very grateful we have this opportunity.”

The expansion should be complete in the Spring 2021, Anderson said.

Kathryn Lehman, Santa Fe director of sponsored projects, wrote in an email the funding will allow Santa Fe to continue to lead the region toward economic growth and resiliency, because it offers entrepreneurs the skills they need to turn their idea into a viable company.

So far, the center has served over 150 startup companies, she said.

“These companies are the future of our state, and that is very exciting to me and all of us here at Santa Fe College,” Lehman said.

Meleah Lyden is a second year Telecommunications major with a specialization in News from Orlando, Florida.