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November 28, 2014

East Central/ Space Coast: Technology Rules

Research universities and skilled talent spawn innovative business 'clusters.'

Diane Sears | 9/24/2009
Digimation President David Avgikos
Orlando’s status as No. 1 in simulation and training, plus a ready supply of 3-D animators, prompted Digimation President David Avgikos to relocate his firm. [Photo: Brook Pifer]

East Central/ Space Coast of Florida
Demographics for the East Central/ Space Coast Region can be found at Business Florida's interactive map of Florida.
Regional Assets

Universities/Colleges
• Beacon College
• Bethune-Cookman College
• Brevard Community College
• Daytona State College
• Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
• Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences
• Florida Institute of Technology
• Full Sail University
• Lake Sumter Community College
• Rollins College
• Seminole Community College
• Stetson University
• University of Central Florida
• Valencia Community College

Airports
• Daytona Beach International Airport
• Melbourne International Airport
• Orlando International Airport
• Orlando Sanford International Airport

Seaports
• Port Canaveral

A decision to relocate can sometimes be sparked in the oddest of ways. Consider, for example, the case of Digimation. The New Orleans-based 3-D graphics and animation company was handing out Zapp’s crawfish-flavored potato chips at its tradeshow booth when Gloria LeQuang, director of technology and entertainment for the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, stopped to ask why. The folks from Digimation said they simply wanted to bring a piece of their Louisiana heritage to the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), an annual conference in Orlando that attracts military contractors from across the globe.

LeQuang had a better idea. Instead of bringing just a tasty bite of Louisiana to Orlando, why not bring the whole company? That conversation led to an invitation to take a closer look at central Florida, which is increasingly becoming known as a hub for technology — including digital media and modeling, simulation and training. The rest is, as they say, history. Digimation opened its new headquarters in Lake Mary in Seminole County in early 2009.

Given that this 17-year-old company with 12 employees has switched its focus in recent years from creating films and video games to developing military training technology, the move made sense, says David Avgikos, Digimation’s president.

“The thing that sealed the deal for Orlando for us was that not only was it No. 1 in simulation and training so we could be close to the customers, but it also had all these schools cranking out 3-D animators,” he says, naming University of Central Florida and Full Sail University in particular. “I just had dinner with one of the guys at Lockheed Martin, and that would never happen in New Orleans.”

Avgikos and his team looked at buildings in several central Florida locations, then they drove north to Lake Mary. With its rolling green hills, trees and campus-like setting, it looked like home. The workers they saw in the area were professional but casual; Digimation’s own employees could even walk to lunch.

“We knew this was the place where we wanted to be,” Avgikos says. “The employees all like it better.”

SEMINOLE COUNTY

Business hub: Seminole County’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in Florida, due in large part to the bustling corridor of office complexes, upscale dining and shopping centers and high-end homes and apartments that has blossomed in recent years in Lake Mary/Heathrow. The area is home to a cluster of companies whose products and services are known worldwide, including: financial services firms Fiserv and Bank of New York; technology companies Convergys and Symantec; and consumer brands AAA and Ruth’s Chris Steak House. In early 2009, AccessMediQuip, a firm specializing in insurance authorization, inventory management, equipment procurement and claims processing for implantable medical devices, moved its corporate headquarters into the area from Houston.

Transportation links: Sanford, Seminole County’s largest city, is well connected. Las Vegas-based Allegiant Airlines has expanded substantially in recent years at Orlando Sanford International Airport, and now offers nonstop flights from Sanford to more than 30 U.S. destinations. In addition, Icelandair operates direct flights from Sanford through Reykjavik to several cities in Europe, including Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London-Heathrow, Paris and Stockholm. Sanford is also the southern terminus for Amtrak’s Auto Train, which transports passengers and their vehicles to Washington, D.C., and points in between along the Eastern Seaboard.

Tags: Space Coast, Business Florida

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