Updated 5 yearss ago
High-technology, high-value businesses, especially those involved in developing new technologies, are finding that Florida's business-friendly tax structure, state-of-the-art research facilities, quality workforce and special fiscal incentives, are key factors that can help ensure their success.
All across the state, strong programs in university research, technology transfer and incubation, hospital/clinic- based R&D, biotechnology and pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing are thriving.
Florida is home to more than 80 biotechnology companies, many of which are involved in the discovery and production of safer vaccines, new pharmaceuticals and better diagnostic tests.
Many of these biotech firms got their start as university spinoffs. Tech transfer programs at 12 universities, as well as incubators and research parks offering wet lab space, business development services and other functions critical to fostering new business, create a welcoming environment for entrepreneurs.
The biotech sector is alive and thriving in Florida. In 2006, Ernst & Young's state-by-state ranking of biotechnology hubs put Florida in the top 10.
Florida's 90 pharmaceutical companies offer contract manufacturing, marketing and distribution services for treatments for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, generics, nutraceuticals and over-the-counter drugs. In addition, Florida ranks second in the nation for FDA-registered medical device establishments with a particularly strong showing in product development for minimally invasive surgery, disposable devices, orthopedic and cardiac implants, diagnostic imaging and sterilization equipment.
Florida supports its growing life sciences sector with pro-business tax policies and incentives. In May 2006, Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law the Innovation Incentive Program, which provides $200 million to support "hubs of innovation" in Florida.
At the same time, the 21st Century Technology, Research and Scholarship Enhancement Act will provide $95 million in matching grants to help universities build an innovation infrastructure by: creating and expanding Centers of Excellence; building high-tech facilities with advanced equipment to attract flagship research projects; and creating a World Class Scholars Program, with funding for the labs, equipment and support staff needed to lure leading researchers to Florida from around the globe.
In 2004 alone, Florida gained 6,700 high-tech jobs, the second best showing by any state (AeA 2006 Cyberstates report) and, with a total of 265,484 jobs, Florida ranks fourth in tech employment. Telecommunications accounted for 66,000 jobs (third highest in the nation), followed by software and computer system design with nearly 60,000 jobs, and engineering with an additional 50,000 jobs.
Florida's IT sector encompasses many technologies, products and services: digital media; software and systems design; modeling, simulation and training; photonics/optics; computer products, microelectronic and precision device manufacturing; and telecommunications.
Increased cooperation between research institutions and businesses has helped create clusters of IT companies in key areas of the state. Florida's High Tech Corridor, which spans Interstate 4 from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, is host to a high concentration of firms specializing in everything from agritechnology and sustainable energy to digital media and microelectronics. South Florida, home to multiple Internet switching stations and several technology companies and organizations, has become known as the iCoast.
As the birthplace of America's space program, Florida continues to be a leader in aviation and aerospace. With more than 1,700 aviation and aerospace companies employing nearly 80,000 workers. Florida today ranks third in the nation in space, aeronautics and aviation employment.
Firms involved in aircraft manufacturing and maintenance, flight simulation and training systems, airport design/operations, communications, electronics and avionics thrive in Florida. In addition to such recognizable names as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, burgeoning manufacturers and suppliers are developing exciting new technologies and systems to support Florida's expanding aerospace industry.
The state's global leadership in the aviation and aerospace industry is further supported by the presence of Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. Widely recognized as the world's most prestigious university specializing in aviation and aerospace, Embry-Riddle is a source of both highly skilled workers and cutting-edge research.
Here, too, is NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), which is much more than a launch site. The Spaceport technology development efforts of NASA and the U.S. Air Force also take place at KSC, and the surrounding area along Florida's Space Coast has attracted providers of software, ground systems and space-enabled services. Organizations such as Space Florida, the Florida Space Authority and the Cape Canaveral Space Partnership help ensure that Florida remains the premier location for innovations in space.
Homeland Security and Defense
Despite widespread cutbacks in defense spending on the national level in 2005, Florida's defense industry continues to grow. While other states lost military ground in the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), Florida retained all 21 military installations with only minor staffing adjustments and added close to 28,000 indirect and direct jobs in the state. The defense industry alone pumps $44 million annually into Florida's economy, and the dollar volume of prime contracts awarded by the Department of Defense to private sector companies in the state puts Florida in fourth place nationwide.
With a $64.7 billion increase in Gross State Product in 2005, Florida's economy remains the fourth largest in the U.S. and the leader among all Southeastern states.
On the homeland security front, Florida-based companies are involved in everything from designing crisis simulation training programs for first-responders to developing a low-cost, portable anthrax detection system for rapid screening of suspicious powders. Secure Florida, a public-private partnership created to increase awareness of cyber security issues, is working to safeguard electronic information systems and reduce vulnerability to cyber attacks.
At Florida Atlantic University's SeaTech campus in Dania Beach, research programs on high-definition videography and remotely piloted underwater vehicles are devising new ways to make America's seaports more secure. Meanwhile, at Florida International University in Miami, researchers are exploring scent-based methods for detecting narcotics and explosives that may streamline airport security procedures. Scientists at the Center for Biological Defense at the University of South Florida in Tampa and St. Petersburg are applying the findings of multidisciplinary research to the creation of treatments, diagnostics and vaccines for dealing with potential bioterrorism threats.
Financial and Professional Services
With close to 31,000 companies, 336,000 employees and a total payroll in excess of $18 million, Florida's fi- nancial services industry has real economic clout. The state's proximity to Latin America and its multicultural workforce give banking, insurance and other financial businesses in Florida tremendous competitive advantage in today's global marketplace.
Fortune 500 financial services leader Fidelity National Financial Inc. has found the state a perfect place from which to deliver services to clients worldwide. In 2003, Fidelity moved its title insurance company headquarters from California to Jacksonville and recently announced plans to expand its technology operations by 600 jobs and its property and casualty division by 200 jobs.
And now that this key sector is designated a "high impact" industry, many more financial services companies will likely follow suit. Expanding or relocating financial services companies will now be eligible for such unique business incentives as Florida's Capital Investment Tax Credit and High Impact Performance Incentive.
More than 16,500 manufacturing firms in Florida employ close to 400,000 workers in traditional industries, such as plastics, food processing and printing, as well as in breakthrough technologies in electronics, medical devices and aviation.
Florida is especially attractive for manufacturers because of its easy access to key growth areas of the Americas and quality workforce. Right-to-work provisions in the state constitution keep unionization rates for manufacturers at just 2.9%, compared to the national average of 13.8%. The state's proximity to Latin America, 14 seaports, 20 commercial airports and thousands of miles of interconnecting roadways ensure smooth distribution for goods flowing into and out of Florida.
Graduates of the degree and certifi- cate programs offered at Florida's twoand four-year colleges join the workforce with competencies in everything from computer design and building maintenance to heavy equipment operation and instrumentation technology.
The Manufacturing Association of Florida works to improve Florida's business climate for manufacturers and to promote the importance of manufacturing to elected officials.
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