October 22, 2014

2009 Industry Outlook

Technology & Biotech 2009

High Hopes: Some of Florida's tech sectors are in position to benefit from a more frugal environment.

Mike Vogel | 1/1/2009

For three years, Clearwater-based software company iDatix has grown revenue by 40% to 50% per year. With recession fears and the credit crisis everywhere, founder Steve Allen might be expected to ratchet down his hopes this year.

Harris Corp.
Harris Corp.’s new telecommunications network is designed to support Federal Aviation Administration operations at more than 4,000 locations nationwide. [Photo: Harris Corp.]
He’s not. When a CEO believes his product cuts clients’ costs, he expects the clients to continue to buy. “People are a little slower about handing over the check,” Allen acknowledges. “It’s a little more difficult, but it’s not catastrophic. There’s more opportunity because people need to save money.” Allen’s outlook isn’t unique in the tech sector. True, traditionally a recession means tech buyers chop purchasing to preserve cash. But how 2009 shapes up for Florida’s tech companies depends on the sector they’re in and how they’ve positioned themselves.

For example, Melbourne-based Harris Corp., which employs 7,000 in Florida, expects profits to increase 19% to 22% this year and revenue to grow 8% to 10%. “We’re expecting another strong year in ’09,” says spokesman Jim Burke. Harris benefits from healthy demand for its specialty — reliable communication equipment. It also has big-ticket contracts with the FAA and U.S. Census Bureau and is reaping the rewards of strategies begun under six-year CEO Howard Lance to diversify, continuously introduce new products and push harder for international sales.

In contrast, Florida tech companies that catered to the real estate and financial services industry are suffering. Credit availability also is an issue for companies, especially young firms. “There are probably entrepreneurs sitting on ideas or they will just have to wait. I think probably everybody is anticipating that in the next six to 12 months we’ll be in a holding pattern for anything that’s in the works,” says Matt Doster, executive director of industry group ITFlorida.

Doster, however, sees opportunity for IT growth in healthcare — a focus of the presidential campaign — as the sector looks to lower costs and improve care and convenience. Agrees, Maryann Fiala, executive director of tech trade group AeA’s Florida Council, “The potential in that particular marketplace is enormous. That certainly could offset any softness we see from the financial market.”

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