Ready workforce and a fertile business climate are hallmarks of Tampa Bay’s appeal.
SRI International’s oceanographic research opens the door for a marine science industry cluster in Tampa Bay. [Photo: University of South Florida]
And with its strong record for job creation — 19,600 new jobs in 2006 alone — and a ready workforce of nearly 2 million, this region continues to attract and grow large employers. In fact, fully 60% of the labor force here works for companies with 500 or more employees, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
In Pinellas — Florida’s most densely populated county at 3,300 people per square mile — tourism has long reigned as the leading industry; an estimated 13 million visitors come to the area each year. Lately, however, manufacturing has been coming on strong.
Why the growth of manufacturing in a county known primarily for sunshine and sandy beaches? The strength of its labor force for starters. In 2006, more than 4,600 jobs were created solely in Pinellas County, and for the third straight year, Pinellas led Florida in distribution of state Incumbent Worker Training (IWT) funds — $834,000 went to 34 local companies in 2006 to train existing workers. Another plus — the cost of living in Pinellas County is below the national average, according to the ACCRA index produced by the Council for Community and Economic Research.
Marine science boom
SRI International, a Silicon Valley-based research and technology development company with revenues topping $400 million, announced plans in fall 2006 to build a 30,000-square-foot waterfront facility in downtown St. Petersburg, which will house, among other things, the first National Center for Marine and Port Security. A collaborative venture with the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, the Center’s work will be aimed at exploring improvements in U.S. port security, including the development of underwater imaging technology. Approximately 100 new jobs within the first five years and an economic impact of more than $170 million on the local economy are expected. This new facility also sets the stage for a growing marine science business/research cluster in the Tampa Bay region. Says SRI International CEO Curtis Carlson, Ph.D., “...the institutional infrastructure is in place, and the broad-based support we have received is already creating momentum and terrific potential for our new operation.”
Pinellas by the Numbers
2nd Best Place Overall for manufacturing employment in Florida
3rd Among all Florida counties for the highest number of manufacturing companies