The Hatchery incubates start-up businesses at Babcock Ranch


December 09, 2017

By Gary Roberts, Staff Writer - Charlotte Sun 

PUNTA GORDA — Although still in its infancy, Babcock Ranch has a well-earned reputation for being on the cutting edge of technology. With a 74.5-megawatt Solar Energy Center, the town is powered by the sun, while driverless, electric shuttle vehicles will begin operating regular routes early next year, when the first residents arrive.

So it is no surprise that Babcock Ranch is starting up its own business incubator and career development center to help create more futuristic advancements and the entrepreneurs behind them.

Natalee Burns is aiding in this initiative and recently talked about the business incubator, called The Hatchery, at a luncheon sponsored by the Economic Development Partnership, formerly known as the Enterprise Charlotte Economic Council, which provides private sector support to bolster economic development in Charlotte County.

The Hatchery invites entrepreneurs to share their ideas and passions in a collaborative environment. And there are plenty of ambitious, innovative millennials and business-savvy baby boomers who could benefit from different types of monthly memberships, she said.

By 2020, an estimated 65 million Americans will be freelancers, temporary workers or independent contractors. About half of today’s retirees in Florida have returned to work in some capacity.

Burns’ father is one of those. Lawrence Burns was a professor of engineering practice at the University of Michigan and worked in research and development for General Motors.  After punching out of the workforce at age 58, he found retirement didn’t agree with him. But wanting more than just to keep busy, he sought a meaningful pursuit.

So eight years ago he became a consultant, advising companies like Google Inc. and investment firms, while sharing his expertise with other businesses through speaking engagements.

“Having seen him go through this journey was really inspiring, and I wanted to bring some of that to Babcock Ranch,” Burns said.

Meanwhile, Tricia Duffy sat on the Charlotte County Commission in 2006, when she first heard of Babcock Ranch. The former commissioner remains a strong supporter of Babcock Ranch, The Hatchery and developer Syd Kitson.

“I was just blown away by his tremendous vision and his plans for Babcock Ranch. That really got my attention,” Duffy said. “It is no longer a town of the future. It’s no longer a dream. It’s really here.”  Email: groberts@sun-herald.com