The National Business Incubation Association (NBIA), the world’s leading organization advancing business and entrepreneurship, announced today it will relocate its headquarters and the formation of the Global Training Center for Business Incubation & Innovation to Orlando from Athens, Ohio, to service more than 2,200 members worldwide.

Orlando’s nationally recognized incubation and entrepreneurship resources have earned praise from Entrepreneur magazine and American City Business Journals as one of the top places in the country to grow or start a small business. Orlando recently was ranked Florida’s top city for overall friendliness toward small businesses by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Thumbtack.

“NBIA selected Orlando because of its reputation as being the home of entrepreneurship and innovation, making it the ideal place to expand our programs and enhance our mission,” said Karl R. LaPan, NBIA’s Board Chairman and interim President and CEO. “The fact that the Orlando region has one of the best business incubation network systems in the world is icing on the cake.”

Already home to the National Entrepreneur Center – one of only two such centers in the nation – Orlando also boasts the University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program (UCFBIP) – one of the largest in the Southeast and named the 2013 NBIA Incubator Network of the Year.

“The UCF Business Incubation Program is one of the best in the country, and Orange County has been a proud supporter and funder of this program for over a decade,” said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. “Along with a number of other small business, minority development and entrepreneurial programs that are already established in our community, NBIA’s relocation of their headquarters to Orange County is a perfect fit with our focus on growing jobs by creating a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

NBIA officials said they plan to establish the new headquarters and Global Training Center for Business Incubation & Innovation in the Central Florida Research Park and look forward to partnering with existing incubation and entrepreneurship programs throughout the region, as well as developing global partnerships. With more than 900 member organizations worldwide, NBIA provides education, advocacy and networking resources to early-stage companies.

Incoming NBIA Chairman Elect and Executive Director of the UCF Business Incubation Program Tom O’Neal said, “The relocation of the NBIA to Orlando puts the region in the forefront of innovation-related activity in the world. By working with the NBIA and having direct access to its expertise, we hope to further strengthen the region’s innovation culture by building stronger and more successful companies.”

While UCF’s BIP focuses on startup companies, currently serving 148 clients across four counties, the university has expanded its entrepreneurial resources to include services for innovators in multiple stages, from students to small businesses to second-stage companies and more. It recently formed a new Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to allow seamless access for clients in any stage.

“Our region’s cutting-edge commitment to entrepreneurs, including some of the nation’s finest incubators, the GrowFL economic gardening programs and more make this the perfect stage from which NBIA can promote that kind of activity around the world,” said Florida High Tech Corridor Council (FHTCC) President Randy Berridge, adding that the FHTCC would provide support for facilities and administration.

NBIA says it also plans to work closely with Orlando’s National Entrepreneur Center, which has coached and trained more than 100,000 businesses and facilitated more than $150 million in loans since its inception in 2003.

“This is truly a win-win for our region as we welcome the premier organization for business incubation in the country, and NBIA joins an entrepreneurial community that has been nationally recognized for collaboration,” said Jerry Ross, Executive Director of the National Entrepreneur Center. “This is very good for the Orlando area, NBIA and for innovative companies everywhere.”

“NBIA’s decision to relocate here is a great opportunity for the whole community,” said Rick Weddle, President and CEO of the Orlando Economic Development Commission, which assisted NBIA in its headquarters relocation decision. “It will benefit UCF’s currently established incubation program, small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs.”

Initially, NBIA considered more than 30 cities for its new headquarters, narrowing its final list to Orlando, Atlanta, Denver and Phoenix.

Partners on the project include the Orlando Economic Development Commission, University of Central Florida, Florida High Tech Corridor Council, Orange County, the City of Orlando and the National Entrepreneur Center.