Updated 11 months ago
Capital city business-hunters are trumpeting two big-bang moves this year: Both the renowned Applied Superconductivity Center and breakthrough Canadian company Danfoss Turbocor, a manufacturer of oil-free compressors, will move to Tallahassee's Innovation Park. Primary lures were the high-tech research and engineering resources of Florida State University, home to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
"When you think of high tech in Florida, we want people to think of Tallahassee,'' says Brad Day, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County, which wants to further diversify job creation beyond the traditional government, service and retail sectors.
While Madison County is experiencing strong land sales, Jefferson County is seeing its share of newcomers. Says Jefferson County Economic Development Director Julie Conley, "The trend is people moving here from South and Central Florida looking for a less-congested place.''
Residential spillover from Tallahassee is giving fringe counties a population and business boost. Gadsden County new-home sales increased 93% through November last year, and Wakulla's jumped 78%. Nearly half of Gadsden County residents work in Tallahassee, says county Economic Development Director David A. Gardner, and more are coming as subdivisions are carved out of timberlands. Gadsden County also is seeing an influx of new business tenants, attracted to easy highway access, especially around fast-growing Midway.
? "The mag lab is the best in the world -- that's simply true,'' says David Larbalestier, director of the Applied Superconductivity Center, soon to relocate from Madison, Wis., to be close to the lab, its frequent research partner. As a result, "There's an opportunity to make an entirely new generation of superconducting magnets out of new superconducting materials.'' The science already is seeing applications in medicine, especially in magnetic resonance imaging. A member of the National Academy of Engineering and holder of four patents, Larbalestier will move this summer along with 12 to 15 of the center's scientists. "We will grow to the size of 30 researchers fairly quickly.'' He's also talking with small companies interested in working with the center on commercial applications.
? Tallahassee's proximity to markets and ports figures in the 2006 move of Danfoss Turbocor, a Canadian firm that makes cutting-edge, oil-free centrifugal compressors.
? California-based Copart Inc. auctions crashed autos online to salvage markets. It opened a regional collection point at Midway's 10-90 park, hiring nine.
? Altaquip opened a facility in Jasper in March, its first in the Big Bend region. The Cincinnati company, which provides powered-equipment warranty and other after-sale services for Home Depot stores, has hired 12.
? Taylor Energy Center near Perry, owned by four Florida municipal power companies, is building a $1.5-billion, 800-megawatt coal-burning power plant projected to fire up in 2012.
? Tai Yang Research of Knoxville, Tenn., has opened a branch at FSU's Center for Advanced Power Systems.
Tallahassee/ Leon County
Tallahassee is capitalizing on its research prowess. "This is the beginning of a change in the Tallahassee area, where we are now thinking about technology and how it can contribute to the economy,'' says Kirby Kemper, vice president for research at Florida State University. He cites moves by the Applied Superconductivity Center, with the potential to draw industrial contractors, and high-tech Danfoss Turbocor, promising at least 150 jobs averaging $59,500. ... Tallahassee's two-university pool of business graduates is a plus for transportation logistics company C.H. Robinson Worldwide of Minnesota, which opened an office in Tallahassee. So is the capital's location, says branch manager Ricky Glass: "It is a gateway to some very vibrant customer markets.'' ... High-rise condominiums are also elevating the capital profile, with as many as 10 projects under construction or in planning stages.
? Marty Stubblefield, North Florida market president for Mississippi-based Hancock Bank, which bought into the Florida market in 2004 with a Tallahassee acquisition, has plans to expand throughout the Panhandle, especially nurturing small business. "We want to be the first place they call about a startup, after their accountant and attorney,'' says Stubblefield.
? KC McWilliams, general manager of the Tallahassee area for Comcast Communications since 2004 and a board member of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County, has partnered with the city and Tallahassee Community College to put high-speed internet in community centers and Tallahassee Community College satellite centers, "and cross that digital divide.''
Hamilton/Suwannee/ Madison Counties
Evers Wood Products, a startup company in Greenville, will specialize in manufacturing privacy-fence material. Evers Wood Owner Larry Evers is a partner in a similar company in South Florida.
Gainesville-based Haven Hospice is expanding in Lake City, building a 16-bed in-patient care center in addition to administrative offices, a $5.2-million project serving a five-county area and creating an additional 40 to 50 jobs.
Home supply company ABC Supply of Beloit, Wis., is opening a location at Midway's 10-90 industrial park and hiring 14 people.
Hurley's Waccasassa Plantation at Branford, which opened in October, is a 1,600-acre hunting and recreation destination, employing 35. Thomas F. Hurley is relocating from Hillsborough County, where he operated cattle, mining and general-agriculture businesses. He's also converted a former icehouse at Trenton to an auction house.