Economic yearbook 2009
Focusing on high-tech companies and nurturing UF spinoffs.
"Making sure the dollars we do have are spent locally is going to make a big difference." — Dean Weaver, chairman of the North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce
Gainesville / Alachua County
Dean Weaver and other officials are encouraging residents and business owners to “shop within a 15-mile radius of where you live.” [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]
Alachua County is weathering Florida’s economic storm relatively well because of a high percentage of jobs that are tied to healthcare, education and government. All three sectors have been hiring despite the downturn. That trend has slowed, however, and the sectors could shed jobs later this year. At the University of Florida, for example, President Bernie Machen has asked deans and department heads to prepare 10% budget cuts for the 2009-10 fiscal year.
See population, income and job statistics from this region.
The community’s oldest hospital, Alachua General, will close later this year, although its parent, UF-Shands, will open a major cancer hospital on campus around the same time. Business leaders here continue to work toward attracting high-tech companies and nurturing UF spinoffs. One big challenge: Alachua’s low unemployment rate — 5.8% — turns off relocating companies who believe they’ll have a hard time filling positions.
Business to Watch
» UF spinoff WiPower has developed a wireless charge pad for cell phones, PDAs and other small electronic devices. CEO Ryan Tseng, who invented the technology as his senior design project in UF’s electrical and computer engineering department, says consumers may have “wireless power” in the future, the same way they have wireless internet today.
Arup Sen’s GenoMechanix in Gainesville provides support for research and drug discoveries. [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]
Person to Watch
» Arup Sen, a former researcher at Scripps in La Jolla, Calif., who earned his doctorate in biochemistry from Princeton at 23, runs a genomics-services company in Gainesville called GenoMechanix and is chief scientific officer for Minerals U.S.A. of Reno, Nev., which produces a discovery by Sen that makes minerals highly water soluble. The science has applications not only for human health, but also for desalination. Sen also is CEO and chief scientific officer of a bioethanol company, Sustainable Cellulosic of Texas, and spinoff Sustainable AgroBiotech, which is working in Puerto Rico to create biodiesel fuel from algae.