Campus Life

UWF helps launch Economic Development Council Innovation Center

New development is critical to building a strong economy. Understanding this, the University of West Florida Emerald Coast partnered with the Okaloosa Economic De­velopment Council and School Board to de­velop and launch the Economic Development Council Innovation Center. The goal of the center is to cultivate and strengthen the development of technology-based start-up companies in the Okaloosa County area. The UWF Emerald Coast W. E. Combs campus serves as the headquarters for the Innovation Center, which celebrated its grand opening in February.

“In this economy, anytime that you can stimulate business activity that can lead to job creation, it is beneficial to our region,” said Jack Azzaretto, vice provost and dean for UWF Emerald Coast. “We are hopeful that these start-ups will take on UWF student interns and eventually hire UWF graduates as their business succeeds.”

According to Azzaretto, the Innovation Center is a business in­cubator, which is a business support process that accelerates the suc­cessful development of start-up and fledgling companies by providing entrepreneurs with an array of specific resources and services. An in­cubator program provides client companies with business support ser­vices and resources tailored to assist young firms in establishing their product and customer base.

“The EDC Innovation Center on the UWF Combs Campus is a true partnership between the University of West Florida, the Okaloosa School District and the Economic Development Council serving Okaloosa County,” said Larry Sassano, president of the EDC for Okaloosa County. “Providing start-up entrepreneurs with the support to kickstart their technical business ventures with the assistance from UWF and other universities and colleges in the area is a key element to making them successful.”

The Economic Development Council’s Innovation Center is Okaloosa County’s first business incubator targeted for technology-based entre­preneurs to include such areas as technology transfer, electrical engi­neering, renewable energy, aerospace engineering, health sciences, information technology, industrial-systems engineering, computer en­gineering and defense contractors. In addition to the Emerald Coast branch, key UWF partners include the Small Business Development Center and the Haas Center. The SBDC provides assistance with business plan development while the Haas Center assists through providing statistical data and market research.

“When we asked our tenants what encouraged them to select the Innovation Center as their primary business site, their number one response was the networking opportunities that would be provided to them by UWF through the EDC alliance,” said Sassano.

To learn more about the EDC Economic Development Center, visit or contact Sassano at (850) 362-6467 or e-mail For more information about the UWF Emerald Coast Combs campus, visit

By Lauren Smith, University Marketing Communications