Communication Builds Our Community

Business Incubator Officers Invited to Defend Operations After Critical Report

Business Owners Brought Forward to Address Concerns

Business owners lined up at the beginning of the Lake Wales City Commission meeting Tuesday evening to explain to commissioners the various ways they are working to enhance the Lake Wales economy and the Northwest Neighborhood. They joined Florida Development Corp, Inc. COO Derrick Blue and CEO Frank Cornier after a special presentation period was added to the commission agenda. FDC operates the BizLINC business incubator under a $1.2 million contract with the City of Lake Wales.

The showing came after a perception that some were "attacked" in a LakeWalesNews.net article published on Tuesday, Feb. 13, which questioned the quality of the advice they were receiving from the business incubator.

FDC

FDC COO Derrick Blue led clients to a city commission meeting to defend his BizLINC incubator, but failed to explain why he had not advised them to pay city or county business taxes. He is expected to address other identified shortcomings of the $1.2 million city-funded incubator at a future CRA meeting.

The speakers offered compelling stories of the successes they have achieved, with some stating that they have created jobs above and beyond their ownership roles. Some explained that they had many years of experience in their fields before aligning with BizLINC. The nearly hour-long presentation was an unusual addition to the city commission agenda and did not appear to comply with the recently-adopted five-minute limit on public comment, which followed the presentation.

The business owners spoke after Blue attempted to refute the lack of Polk County and City of Lake Wales business tax receipts, commonly known as occupational licenses, among his own and certain client businesses, pointing out that some had professional licenses.

State-issued "professionals" including real estate agents, hairdressers, building contractors, barbers and others are required to obtain a state license by taking a course and test.

No testing is required to pay the standard business tax and obtain the permit, but many new business owners are unaware that those "business tax receipts" are a required step in conducting business. The lack of those permits raised the question of why business coaches failed to advise their clients of that necessary step.

After the News article was published, representatives of the Polk County Tax Collector's office conducted a meeting with business owners at the BizLINC site on Friday, February 16, and confirmed that seven businesses had obtained their business tax receipts that week, and that all at that location are now in compliance. One owner, they said, chose to dissolve their corporation rather than pay the tax. They confirmed that step was taken on Monday.

The issue of the lack of either city or county occupational licenses was pointed out to LakeWalesNews.net by a private citizen and confirmed by an official at the Polk County Tax Collectors office and through City of Lake Wales records.

No effort was made by Blue or Cornier to address the question of plagiarism and faked testimonials that were posted on the company website at mybizlinc.com, although some have since been removed.

Despite the questions regarding the management of the operation, the obvious value of a business incubator ran through the testimony offered by the various business owners who have stepped up to create value for the community. Most were apparently unaware to the need to obtain the county and city licenses once they had registered corporations with the state.

Mayor Jack Hilligoss used the presentation to defend Blue, who is on the teaching team at his church, before launching personal attacks against LakeWalesNews.net, contributors to the publication, and other citizens who have raised questions of the city. He was joined by Commissioner Danny Krueger in that effort.

Courtesy HPC

Derrick Blue (L) serves on the "teaching team" at Mayor Jack Hilligoss' church.

After nearly an hour of presentation, Hilligoss noted that the upcoming Community Redevelopment Agency meeting was the correct time for Blue to present FDC contract reports. There he is expected to present his full report on the progress the group had achieved.

See a related editorial here

 

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