Florida Tech Time: The Sunshine State's Way Forward

The Sunshine State is used to making things grow, this includes its tech industry, where Florida is sprouting thousands of new jobs.


https://businessfacilities.com/2020/08/florida-tech-time-the-sunshine-states-way-forward/
The Sunshine State is used to making things grow, this includes its tech industry, where Florida is sprouting thousands of new jobs.
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Florida Tech Time

The Sunshine State is used to making things grow, this includes its tech industry, where Florida is sprouting thousands of new jobs.

Florida Tech Time: The Sunshine State's Way Forward

By Dominique Cantelme
From the July/August 2020 Issue

This year has got a lot to make up for. Some of us wonder how March, April, May, June and July are already behind us, especially when many have little or nothing to show for it—except possibly a few pounds. Fortunately, when it comes to tech, the Sunshine State has made more progress. Throughout this crisis-filled 2020, Florida has consistently found a way to move forward.

Forcura, a healthcare technology company that currently employs 73 people in Jacksonville, announced in May that it plans to add 115 more jobs by the end of 2022. The company modernizes documentation, workflows and secure communications for post-acute health care providers. It has since expanded into data and analytics and expects to offer workflow automation products powered by artificial intelligence.

Forcura will also open its new 30,000-square-foot headquarters and plans to invest $2.15 million in improvements and equipment.

In June, international cybersecurity firm GLESEC LLC said it expects to more than double its workforce as it relocates from Princeton, NJ to Orlando. The new headquarters will be home to the GLESEC Secured Operations Center (SOC) and Cyber Range Training Facilities, in addition to administration and sales.

And in July it was announced that GCR, Inc., a public sector software and services firm, is opening a Center of Excellence in Heathrow with plans to hire 250 people over the next five years. The location will focus on innovation in government technology, or GovTech, gathering team members from different disciplines to create a cross-functional model focused on delivering solutions that will transform how state and local governments operate.

Jamal Sowell, President & CEO of Enterprise Florida, Inc. said the announcement “reflects a positive trend that we are seeing as Florida becomes the ideal place to grow a tech business.”

SARASOTA COUNTY: LAYING THE FOUNDATION OF SUCCESS

Sarasota County, FL is widely known as an idyllic location for those looking to enhance their quality of life amongst award winning beaches, rich cultural assets and natural beauty. However, it is what lies beneath the surface that many find surprising. The region is home to a diverse industrial base that ranges from some of the Tampa Bay region’s largest manufacturers—such as PGT Innovations, Tervis and Sun Hydraulics—to an emerging technology sector. Life science companies flock to the region, leveraging Harvard’s Brain Health Initiative and the expertise it represents. Corporate headquarters from global enterprises can be found, as executive teams find the talent and expertise needed to run complex business structures. While tourism is an inherent strength of the region, these other sectors reflect the sophistication and unique competitive advantages Sarasota County offers.

Beyond the unparalleled quality of life and highest rated school district in the state of Florida, may be the business and tax climate rarely found elsewhere. The ability to find local talent, parlayed with the ease of recruitment of talent to the region make Sarasota County a preferred destination for business and professionals. The community presses these advantages by consistently approving measures such as the $1 million property tax assessment that benefits public education, the creation of the certified production technician program or investments in technology and innovation through five higher education partners. No personal income tax allows earnings and wages to go further, and low corporate taxes encourage investment and growth. Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) provides connectivity to more than 40 markets in the United States, without long lines and lengthy check-ins. From large corporations to startups, Sarasota County works for a wide range of individuals and businesses.

Investments in success can come in many forms. Workforce development, new commercial and industrial products, infrastructure improvements, increased connectivity through Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, supporting local business through economic development, incentives for expansion and attraction of industry are just a few ways Sarasota County demonstrates a commitment to the future and partnerships with industry. Many come for the sun, sand and relaxation, but stay for the opportunity and sheer potential of this market on the rise.

DOING BUSINESS IN PASCO COUNTY

If you are wondering where your company can expand or relocate to, look no further than Pasco County, FL in North Tampa Bay. Located just 30 miles north of Tampa and about 50 miles west of Orlando, it is easy to enjoy all that West Central Florida has to offer. As one of the fastest growing areas in the Tampa Bay region, Pasco County features a unique blend of undeveloped, open spaces in close proximity to modern, vibrant communities with ready access to major interstate highways, CSX Rail Line, Tampa International Airport and Port Tampa Bay.

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Pasco EDC offers SMARTstart, a program specifically geared towards helping startups and small businesses in Pasco County. SMARTstart (at The Grove in Wesley Chapel, above) is the third business Incubator location in Pasco County. (Photo: Pasco EDC)

Pasco County government works cooperatively with business leaders and residents to balance economic growth and job creation, with planned growth that protects the environment and preserves Pasco’s beautiful green space. The resulting quality of life and a supportive environment for business and industry has helped Pasco County become one of the top 40 fastest growing counties in the United States, which means WORKFORCE.

Explore Pasco County through virtual means. The Pasco Economic Development Council (EDC) offers a wide array of site selections tools, workforce resources and business classes all online.

Workforce: Labor is either fostered or imported and Pasco County has both. Its K-12 schools recognize the importance of fostering young minds through Pasco’s 32 Career Technical Education programs and the state-of-the-art Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program, also known as AMSkills. The higher education schools in the region, including Saint Leo University, Pasco Hernando State College, University of South Florida and University of Tampa, all infuse educated workforce into the community.

With 40 percent of the population leaving the county every day for work, companies are aware they need to be near the employee and are strategically deciding Pasco County is where they should be. The WorkforceCONNECT program, established in 2018, was developed to assist in producing better alignment between the supply and demand for workforce in Pasco County. The website provides a detailed and interactive asset mapping tool for employers to identify specific resources to aid them in finding the skilled workers they need. It also provides a robust catalog of other programs that can assist employers upskill and/or retain their workforces, such as training grants and transportation programs.

For jobseekers, the website highlights 14 high skill, in-demand careers with clear articulation paths through local resources. It also features a career assessment tool that asks jobseekers three questions about what they look for in the ideal career and highlights which of the 14 careers best fits their interests. This allows jobseekers to explore careers in Pasco and will reduce “brain drain” and bolster Pasco’s workforce.

WorkforceCONNECT is one of the first programs of its kind in the nation, designed with the needs of employers in mind, and driven by data. Preparing its workforce and providing a quality of life that will attract workforce is Pasco’s number one priority.

Pasco Ready Sites: One of the fastest growing trends in the site location business is the demand for project-ready industrial properties. The reason is simple: companies need ready access to buildable sites in order to efficiently begin and complete construction to get to the business of making money.

Recognizing this trend, the Pasco EDC, in partnership with Pasco County, has implemented the Pasco Ready Sites Program. The Ready Sites Program assesses, evaluates and certifies large tracts of land to prepare properties for industrial development and creates a portfolio of project-ready sites for targeted industries. This program has allowed the Pasco EDC to assess, evaluate and market over 1,900 acres of land. Each site features numerous digital tools for site selectors to utilize and tour the site, including:

Interactive Maps

  • Aerial image of the property with the site shaded
  • Map layers, including location of water, electric, wastewater and reclaimed water lines along with pipe sizes and capacity
  • Five pop out infographics, including 45-minute drive time labor force and population; site-specific information (including acreage, single or multiple owners); targeted land use; and utilities

Property Videos

  • Aerial views of the property from multiple access points with the site shaded
  • Location of water, electric, wastewater and reclaimed water lines along with pipe and capacity sizes.

Virtual Business Resources: To start and grow local business, Pasco EDC offers a program called SMARTstart that is specifically geared towards helping entrepreneurs with their startups, and small businesses in Pasco County. Three strategically placed Entrepreneur Centers throughout the county each have a business incubator on site and one features a kitchen incubator with a commercial kitchen. Each site has its own unique benefits and entrepreneurs have access to all the other centers through one membership fee.

SMARTstart offers a free Education Series which is open to the public as well as a multitude of other programs that can drill down into every entrepreneur’s needs. The Education Series was previously offered at the multiple entrepreneur centers throughout the county. However, when states began implementing stay at home orders, they knew adaptation was necessary to continue delivering valuable business resources to the community.

From mid-March to mid-June, SMARTstart delivered 33 virtual classes to over 745 participants. Some classes were held through virtual meeting platforms and some were live streamed on social media pages with industry professionals and the presenters.

One of the most rewarding programs Pasco EDC has been able to offer is the REFOCUS Workshop through CO.STARTERS. This two–hour virtual workshop helps participants find the focus and clarity needed to shift mindsets and find a new way forward through the COVID-19 pandemic.

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY: CENTRAL TO WHERE YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS TO BE

Indian River County—Vero Beach, Sebastian, Fellsmere—strikes a perfect balance between business and pleasure. Those who live, work or visit the area find that the local communities are safe and loaded with ecological, cultural, educational and technological amenities. Many C-level executives have located their companies to the area because of the executive’s positive vacation experience, or they own a winter home on the Vero Beach barrier island.

Located on Florida’s east coast, midway between West Palm Beach and Cape Canaveral, Indian River County is within three hours of over 17 million consumers, or 90 percent of Florida’s population. It has easy access to markets but is far from urban sprawl, traffic and congestion.

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Vero West Industrial Park has 49 acres zoned for Light Industrial use. (Photo: Indian River County)

The area is rich in history and natural resources, including wildlife reserves such as the U.S. Pelican Island National Wildlife Sanctuary. The county also boasts 26 miles of unspoiled beaches and scenic lakes, with some of the best bass fishing available in Blue Cypress Lake. It is also the center of the world-famous Indian River Citrus District.

Indian River County is a cost-competitive place to locate or expand your business. It has hundreds of acres of low-cost land available for development, much of it located near I-95, a major north-south transportation route along the east coast—perfect for warehouse/distribution operations. The county offers competitive property tax rates, and Florida has no state income tax.

And now with the Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) initiative, investors have an even greater reason to consider Indian River County, FL. All properties west of I-95 in Indian River County are designated as an Opportunity Zone. This includes the City of Fellsmere, a rural community in the northwestern portion of the county with thousands of acres of developable land and quick access to I-95.

The QOZ includes two shovel-ready industrial parks located ½ mile west of I-95 along SR60. The Indian River Park of Commerce is home to a 400,000-square-foot CVS distribution center and has 90 acres available for lease. The Vero West Business Park has 49 acres available for sale and is the future home of Boston Barricades, a national manufacturer of enclosures for commercial and construction sites. State and local incentives are also available to relocating and expanding companies, including property tax abatement, tax refunds and job training grants.

Indian River County’s superb quality of life attracts innovative businesses and talented professionals from around the country and around the world. Advanced industries from aviation to aquaculture and emerging tech to healthcare benefit from a low cost of doing business and some of the lowest taxes in the nation. The Cleveland Clinic expanded its Florida footprint by taking over the Indian River Medical Center, now providing advanced and expanded medical services to residents throughout the region.

An available and trainable workforce of approximately 638,000 within an hour’s drive time adds to the county’s appeal as a desirable location. Indian River State College (IRSC) has five campuses located throughout the region, offering two-year and four-year degrees as well as several industrial and technical certifications. IRSC is wildly successful in securing training grants for local employers.

The Indian River County Chamber of Commerce partnered with the local school district and CareerSource Research Coast, the region’s workforce organization, to launch a Manufacturing Boot Camp program.

Based on a successful program in neighboring St. Lucie County, the program gives high school seniors who are not college-bound an opportunity to see the types of jobs and skills needed within the manufacturing industry—building up that workforce pipeline. During a weeklong program, students tour local manufacturing facilities each day, asking questions and getting hands-on experiences. The Chamber plans to grow this program, adding more industry sectors in the future, such as contractor trades and healthcare.

Air transportation in the area is served by two general aviation airports which primarily cater to private and corporate aircraft. Sebastian Airport is home to Whelen Aerospace Technologies, a global leader in high-end lighting products for the aerospace industry. Vero Beach Regional Airport is a full service Fixed Base Operator with a 7000-foot runway. It is home to Piper Aircraft and Flight Safety International, plus offers direct non-stop commercial air service to Newark, NJ. Both airports have plenty of airside and non-aviation land available for future development.

PORT ST. LUCIE: DEVELOPMENT IS BOOMING IN SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

The sunshine state is hot with industrial development activity in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Located on the southeast coast between Orlando and Miami, St. Lucie County lies at the heart of the Treasure Coast. With a county population of 321,000, Port St. Lucie is the 7th largest city in Florida with over 195,000 residents. The current median age of 44 provides a dynamic and growing workforce in a community with affordable housing options, top-rated schools and a pro-business climate. Both I-95 and Florida’s Turnpike bisect the county.

Exciting new development is taking place in Port St. Lucie at the Tradition Center for Commerce, comprised of 1,200 acres of readily available land for industrial, warehouse, office and retail development. Accel International Holdings is a manufacturer of high performance cables, wires and conductors servicing the aerospace, medical, industrial and telecommunications marketplace with silver, nickel-and-tin-plated copper and copper alloy products. The company selected Port St. Lucie for their southeast expansion and is building a new 150,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, expected to generate 125 new jobs.

Joining Accel is TAMCO Group, who recently completed their expansion into a new 411,000-square-foot manufacturing, distribution and warehouse facility; OCULUS Surgical, a 125-year old ophthalmic surgical equipment manufacturer expanding with a new 55,000-square-foot state-of-the-art manufacturing, distribution, sales and service facility; and Cleveland Clinic’s expansion into their new Florida Research and Innovation Center comprised of 107,000 square feet of Bio-Safety Level 2 and 3 high-tech laboratory, research, development and office space. In addition, Tambone Tradition, a master developer of 84 acres in the Tradition Center for Commerce, has available land suitable for headquarters, commercial, multi-family, healthcare and industrial development.

On the industrial development forefront, Sansone Group is moving forward with a phased 3.2 million-square-foot-industrial development initiative. Phase 1 of the planned development includes a 600,000-square-foot cross dock distribution facility with 40 foot clear height ceilings and the potential to expand to 1.1 million square feet. The development also features a 148,000-square-foot multi-tenant distribution facility with 32-foot clear height ceiling. It is projected to employ nearly 2,600 people upon completion. Founded in 1957 by Anthony F. Sansone, Sr., Sansone Group is a nationally recognized commercial and industrial real estate development firm with a current industrial pipeline encompassing 44 projects in 13 states, which include build to suit and speculative development projects.

CITY OF HOLLYWOOD: COMMITTED TO WORLD-CLASS HEALTHCARE

For Dr. Randall Katz, treating patients at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood isn’t just a job. As Memorial Healthcare System’s Chairman of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Katz also lives in this thriving community. He knows his neighbors and that they depend on the care they receive at Memorial, and have since its inception in Hollywood in 1953.

“You can’t walk into a private hospital because there are no resources there for you, especially if you are a taxpayer that happens to not be insured. In the Memorial Healthcare System we don’t leave anyone behind, regardless of their ability to pay. Everybody is treated. Patients who show up who live within our boundaries—we’re responsible for them and we take care of them.”

The Memorial Healthcare System is the third largest public healthcare system in the United States. With two of their hospitals located in Hollywood, Memorial is known for providing outstanding patient and family-centered care, as well as noteworthy, cutting-edge research and medical education opportunities.

Both Memorial Regional Hospital and Memorial Regional Hospital South offer extensive and diverse healthcare services that include a Level 1 Trauma Center, the Cardiac and Vascular Institute featuring renowned surgeons, the Memorial Cancer Institute and Memorial Neuroscience Institute that provide innovative technology for treatment and world-class physicians. Hollywood is also home to the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital at Memorial, one of the region’s leading full-service pediatric hospitals treating minor illnesses and trauma-related accidents to some of the most complex medical conditions.

Dr. Katz believes now more than ever, it is important to have a strong relationship between the neighborhood healthcare system and the community to create a positive outcome for all. “It starts when the patient calls 9-1-1 and it ends when the patient leaves the hospital and even after that.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Katz says Memorial’s partnership with the City of Hollywood was instrumental in quickly ramping up community testing for COVID-19. “It’s a really important example of how combining our resources absolutely improved the care in our community.”

Hollywood is a business-friendly destination strategically located in the heart of South Florida, along the Atlantic Ocean at the crossroads of the Florida Turnpike, I-95, U.S. 1, State Road 7 and both the CSX and FEC railways.

A hub for international trade, Hollywood is adjacent to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and within a 30 minute drive to Miami International Airport and Palm Beach International Airport. Neighboring Executive Airports such as Opa-Locka, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton are just a short drive away and Naples Executive and the Southwest Florida International Airport are little more than 100 miles away.

Hollywood is the primary home to Port Everglades, South Florida’s powerhouse port and one of the most diverse seaports in the United States. With $28 billion in annual economic activity, Port Everglades ranks as Florida’s #1 seaport by revenue. It is among the top cruise ports in the world and one of the most active containerized cargo ports in the United States, serving as South Florida’s main seaport for petroleum products, such as gasoline and jet fuel.

Economic initiatives are led by the Office of Communications, Marketing and Economic Development. Hollywood’s economic development mission is two-fold: attract new business and retain and expand existing businesses. The City’s Economic Development team provides support to both large and small business owners, investors, developers and entrepreneurs in an effort to help grow Hollywood’s business community. A variety of programs and resources are available to meet business owners’ needs.

Located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, with pristine beaches and a vibrant downtown, Hollywood is a top destination for world-wide tourism and locals alike. “There’s a huge community component to our system,” says Dr. Katz. “We’re always out there working with our partners like the City of Hollywood, educating, providing preventive care, and solid medical advice to the community.”

As the City approaches its centennial celebration, Hollywood remains a premier destination for quality healthcare services, cutting-edge medical research and life-saving treatment options.

HERNANDO COUNTY: A GREAT PLACE TO START, THE BEST PLACE TO STAY

Hernando County, located on the west coast of Florida in the highly regarded Tampa Bay Region, offers the perfect blend of opportunity for business relocation, expansion and lifestyle. Availability, affordability, accessibility and community, that’s what it’s all about.

The Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport & Technology Center (BKV) provides an abundance of opportunity just 40 minutes north of Tampa International Airport, and features a 7,000ft ILS equipment primary runway (with plans to expand to 8,000ft), an air traffic control tower, airside parcels and CSX rail access sites with sidings in place. The Technology Center is a premier business location and the epicenter of economic development in Hernando County. The BKV Tech Center is a 2,400-acre, master planned facility with features that include available manufacturing buildings, 1,000+ acres of land for development, sites with direct airside access and a Duke Energy Site Ready 285-acre parcel with infrastructure in place. With access to more than 300,000 workers within a 30-minute drive, a technical high school and adult education center just across the street, you can see why it is home to successful businesses such as Airdyne Aerospace, Pem-Air Turbine Engine Services, American Aviation Flight Academy, Accuform, Barrette Outdoor Living and Micro-Matic USA, to name just a few.

On the east side of the county, just one mile from Interstate 75 and 40 miles from the Florida Turnpike, are several hundred acres ready for development. Situated on either side of a 1.5-million-square-foot Wal-Mart Distribution Center, these two sites are prime for manufacturing or logistics.

Accessibility and transportation are key to your business and with five major highways crisscrossing Hernando County, shipping and receiving is a breeze. North-south routes include Interstate 75, U.S. 19, the Suncoast Parkway and U.S. 41. The latter two run adjacent to the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Technology Center, providing a two-stop light connection to Tampa International Airport. I-75 is east of Brooksville and connects via the major east-west artery, State Road 50.

A business-friendly community, Hernando County is committed to growing industry. The County has invested in the BKV Tech by providing infrastructure ready sites for your business expansion needs. Road, water and sewer are available throughout the park; drainage and water retention are mastered planned affording significant construction savings. By combining State of Florida incentives, workforce training programs and a Rapid Response Permitting Program, Hernando County is the ideal place for business.

Building the pipeline for your future workforce needs is a top priority in Hernando County and throughout the Tampa Bay Region. Relationships with the local school system and post-secondary institutions help to influence curriculum and workforce training programs to suit your specific business requirements. Partnerships with Pasco-Hernando State College, St. Leo University, University of South Florida, University of Florida and University of Central Florida, along with a robust technical high school and adult education institutions, like SunCoast Technical Education Center, ensures access to any business expertise you may require as well as a pool of well-trained and motivated employees.

“All work and no play makes …” for an impossibility in Hernando County. Recreational activities are so abundant and varied, it is no wonder it is known as Florida’s Adventure Coast. Your employees and business associates will melt at the picture-perfect sunsets on the Gulf of Mexico, where the Hernando County coast will lure them to some of the best fishing, scalloping and shallow-water boating in west central Florida. Inland, they will enjoy playing on championship golf courses and kayaking on a matrix of rivers. You may enjoy hiking, biking and horseback riding on some of Florida’s top-rated trails that meander through forests and nature preserves. For the more adventurous, spend the day in the trees and zipline at Tampa Bay Extreme Adventure Course or visit Croom Recreation Area and ride your motorcycle/ATV at this world-class compound.

The metro markets of Tampa and Orlando are only a short drive away and residents in Hernando County have access to a wide range of professional sports venues, concert halls, cultural and fine arts, and some of the top-ranked beaches in the United States. Residents here enjoy big-city conveniences while living in an active suburban community where the cost of living consistently ranks the lowest of Tampa Bay’s seven county region.

With a reputation as the most affordable county in the Tampa Bay Region and offering lifestyle choices from beaches to country club to ranches to historic homes, Hernando County has something for everyone. These assets, combined with a business-friendly government, available land and an abundant and well-trained workforce, make Hernando County a natural choice for business relocation and expansion.

CAPE CORAL: PERFECTLY POSITIONED TO SUPPORT SUPPLY CHAIN COMPANIES

As supply chain companies recalibrate their operations from offshore to onshore facilities, the Gulf Coast Cape Coral community should be considered a viable option. With the largest market between Miami and Tampa, the City of Cape Coral is home to 200,000 residents, nearly 800,000 residing within Lee County, and more than 1 million within the three-county area of Lee, Collier and Charlotte. This makes for a readily available workforce within a 45-minute drive.

Cape Coral boasts a host of opportunities for supply chain companies to establish operations in a strategically located community. The City is situated within 15 miles of Interstate 75 for connecting northward to Tampa and onto the Midwestern states, and southeastward to Miami/Fort Lauderdale. Access Miami, Tampa and Orlando within a two-hour drive.

Cape Coral has reasonably priced housing for any workforce, including executive housing, in one of the safest communities in the State of Florida. An excellent place to raise a family, the City has its own charter school district (Oasis), offering a first-rate learning environment for young people. Cape Coral also is an easily accessible community due to lack of congestion and a variety of alternative routes. Most commute times within the City are only about 15 minutes.

Whether it’s pursuing permits for new construction or renovating an existing building, city staff will provide a welcome mat, expedite permits and offer ombudsperson services. This business friendly community also offers financial incentives, depending on the size of the company and average annual wages.

Supply chain companies considering reshoring to the U.S. should take a close look at the City of Cape Coral. It offers an excellent “work-life balance” for your team and welcomes your business.

Want to learn more about Florida corporate expansion?

Considering Florida for your company’s relocation or expansion project? Check out all the latest news related to Florida economic development, corporate relocation, corporate expansion and site selection.

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  • Florida: A Warm Climate For Business Growth Florida’s huge market and business-friendly government policies help companies reach their growth and expansion goals with ease.

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