BOCA RATON, Fla. ( TheStreet) - Even with Florida being one of the worst hit areas during the housing crisis and resulting recession, the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce represents a metro area that is recovering in stride.
Nicknamed "Silicon Beach," earlier this month, Bloomberg Businessweek named Boca Raton as the second-best city for tech-centric entrepreneurs to start a company, just behind Boulder, Colo.
And its local chamber of commerce is doing all it can to support that claim.
"The Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce is a prime example of organizations that are doing great work supporting entrepreneurship in their community," says SCORE CEO Ken Yancey.Winning SCORE's Outstanding Non-Profit Organization award for 2012 (SCORE is the Small Business Administration's partner organization designed to mentor entrepreneurs), the chamber is the third of seven winners to be profiled by TheStreet. SCORE celebrated the winners at its fourth annual awards gala in New Orleans on August 16. >>Teenager a Gem in Minority-Owned Small Business Sector >>>>>Outstanding Veteran-Owned Small Business: SCORE Awards A conversation with the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce's executive vice president Beth Johnston follows. How is the chamber helping entrepreneurism? Johnston: This chamber is a chamber of about 1,200 members now. All the programs we have at the chamber allow the entrepreneurs to network with each other, such as our membership breakfasts, our PULSE group, which is under-40 professionals, many of which have their own businesses. We also have groups such as the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, which was really how we won the SCORE award. Our Young Entrepreneurs Academy is an academy of 24 7-12th grade students. It teaches them from start to finish how to be an entrepreneur. ... When they're done they will have a business. What happens is each of the businesses gets a business plan mentor. We used six SCORE mentors last year and are doing it again this year to be mentors for these students to help them write their business plans and know what it is like to be an entrepreneur. Why is entrepreneurism so important for the Greater Boca Raton area? Johnston: First of all, Boca Raton was the birthplace for IBM's PC. We are a natural location. Boca was just voted the second-best city in the country to start a business citing the city's access to resources, higher education and capital. >>3 Surprising Cities for Small Business Success It is natural for us in Boca Raton to build on the entrepreneurial wagon. We're going to do all we can, starting with the student level that's not even in college yet. What industries are particular to the Boca Raton area? Johnston: Medical, technology and education are three of the big industries here where we are seeing a lot of entrepreneurs pop up. How did the recession affect small companies in the area? What measures did the chamber take to assist them? Johnston: Of course when the bubble burst we were not immune. But the Boca chamber -- that's when we kick into gear and that's when we find out what our members and what the business community needs from us the most.
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