In 2007, Steve Millaway returned to his hometown in Panama City after spending most of his career in Arizona. Although Panama City and Panama City Beach had both experienced considerable growth, the growth was primarily centered on tourism and the expansion of DoD contractors supporting the local Navy Base and Tyndall Airforce Base. What was still missing were the high paying private sector jobs like those found in Silicon Valley, Austin, and Phoenix, among others. As he later discovered, the same situation existed for much of Northwest Florida where the local coastal economies were driven largely by tourism and the Military.
Steve soon discovered that Gulf Coast State College (GCSC) was thinking about building a state-of-the-art technology center on campus where students could receive training in a wide range of areas including advanced manufacturing, computer science, cyber security, and digital media. The plans included facilities that allowed hands-on training with emerging technologies such alternative energy systems, electric cars and additive manufacturing using 3D printers.
For the next 6 years Steve served on various advisory boards at the college that focused on the development of the new technology center and on launching various entrepreneurial programs. Finally, in late 2013 GCSC’s new $35M Advanced Technology Center (pictured above) held its grand opening, and in doing so, ushered in a new era where students could now receive training on advanced technologies, design and build prototypes and receive entrepreneurial training.
However, what was still missing in the community was a technology incubator where both students and residents of the community could take their ideas from concept to prototype and receive advice and mentoring while they start their new businesses. To address this need, Steve founded TechFarms in early 2015.
TechFarms’ mission is to help create more private sector technology companies for Northwest Florida. In the process, we’ll be creating more jobs, growing our workforce, and making our communities more attractive to larger tech companies that will bring even more jobs.
To expand the tech culture and entrepreneurial ecosystems in Bay County and Northwest Florida. This is our responsibility, and a necessity for us to sustain and grow. Without a strong foundation of an entrepreneurial culture, our work will not produce or attract a skilled workforce. When we develop relationships around a strong feeling of community, talent tends to multiply.
To connect entrepreneurs to resources, mentors, and each other, so they can launch new products & services. A tech culture forms through the connections between talented people and trusted mentors. People supporting their peers and working around like-minded individuals transform ideas into viable products and companies. TechFarms serves as a trusted space for individuals to become teams, and for teams to become successful businesses.
Provide resources for entrepreneurs and startup companies, including capital investments, market analysis, mentors, networking events, tools for product development and shared work space. Startups must have these assets to grow. Providing all of these benefits under one roof makes it possible for entrepreneurs to focus on their goals and accelerate their development.