Simulation and life sciences join aviation/aerospace as anchors for this region's diverse economy.
Could Central Florida be the next Silicon Valley? Maybe, says Raydon CEO Don Ariel. [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]
Racecars Mean Business: Although Volusia County’s coastal communities have long been popular tourist destinations, it’s the love of the racecar that is luring new businesses these days.
International Speedway Corporation is building a new headquarters near Daytona International Speedway that will house the entertainment destination “Daytona Live!” The 71-acre development will include a hotel, movie theater, retail shops and residential housing. Also, Intellitec Products and BBK Performance Products, both of which supply motor vehicle accessories, are moving into manufacturing facilities at the new DeLand Crossings Industrial Park. And New Jersey-based Mikronite Technologies has acquired specialty auto parts maker Crane Cams, vowing to keep the operation in Daytona Beach.
New Silicon Valley: Founded 20 years ago by three former employees of General Electric, which later became Martin Marietta and Lockheed Martin, the Daytona Beach simulation technology company Raydon made its mark focusing on customers with small budgets and big orders. “Our strategic belief system was if we could design equipment to satisfy that training need, it could transition to other services,” says Don Ariel, CEO and co-founder.
Raydon has grown to about 240 employees. Many, like the original co-founders, have come from larger companies; others are graduates of the technical schools that abound in this region: Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, University of Central Florida, Florida Institute of Technology, Daytona Beach State College and Florida Technical University. Today, Raydon vies for military training equipment contracts, but tries to think of others in the industry as collaborators rather than
“Our real hope,” Ariel says, “is that central Florida becomes the Silicon Valley of virtual reality.”