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Tampa Bay: High Tech Hotbed

Marine Science

» Anchored by the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, Bayboro Harbor in St. Petersburg is home to the largest marine science research hub in the Southeast and one of the largest in the nation. The complex includes the U.S. Geological Survey’s St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, the Florida Institute of Oceanography, Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and the U.S. headquarters of Cousteau Divers, a non-profit founded by Pierre-Yves Cousteau, the son of legendary diver Jacques-Yves Cousteau. With the addition of Silicon Valley-based SRI International, which launched a research operation there in 2007 to focus on port security and environmental science, the growing cluster today employs more than 1,600. The BP oil spill in 2010 brought international attention to USF’s marine researchers, who played a pivotal role in monitoring the impacts of the disaster and attracted millions of dollars in grant money to continue to probe the spill’s lasting effects. The university’s research has also spawned several successful companies, including Dunedin-based Ocean Optics, which produced the world’s first miniature spectrometer used for optical sensing. The company was later sold for $50 million.


» The proximity of MacDill Air Force Base — home to the U.S. Central Command, the U.S. Special Operations Command and the 6th Air Mobility Wing — has spurred the growth of highly concentrated niches in aerospace electronics, equipment and parts manufacturing, ammunition manufacturing and avionics and maritime electronics. Included among the more than 2,300 defense contractors in the region are such industry giants as Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and SAIC. Other notable companies with a presence in the region include ATK Defense Electronic Systems, which has an office in Clearwater focusing on an advanced integrated missile, laser and hostile fire warning systems; CAE, which operates a comprehensive C-130 training center in Tampa; and General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, a St. Petersburg-based unit of General Dynamics that manufacturers large, medium- and small-caliber munitions, mortar weapons and systems, artillery projectiles, bomb bodies, propellants, non-lethal and force-protection products. A number of other contractors such as L3-Stratis, a division of defense giant L-3 Communications, provides IT support services to MacDill.

Bioscience /Medical Technologies

» Home to the University of South Florida, USF’s medical school, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and other top-notch medical facilities, the Tampa Bay region boasts a fast-growing biosciences cluster that includes biomedical research, pharmaceuticals and medical device manufacturing. The Tampa Bay Technology Incubator at USF Research Park has incubated more than 65 companies, including Claro Scientific, Saneron-CCEL, Therapeutics and Draper Laboratory, which have received multimillion-dollar grants from the NIH and the Gates Foundation. Another rising star is Moffitt’s M2Gen, which uses a proprietary and unique data warehouse of nearly 100,000 cancer patients that can help pharmaceutical companies line up the best possible candidates for clinical trials by matching biomarkers to targeted drugs. The $38-million, 90,000-sq.-ft. USF Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, CAMLS, provides simulation training and testing for health professionals and students. In St. Petersburg, Johns Hopkins Medicine’s purchase of All Children’s Hospital is fostering new research opportunities and has led to the creation of a new pediatric residency program that kicks off next year.

Tampa Bay — Pinellas County, in particular — is also home to more than 370 medical device businesses including industry heavy-hitters like Baxter International and ConMed Linvatec as well as a number of smaller companies spun out of university research. Synergy Health in Tampa, the U.K.-based company that purchased SRI/Surgical Express, and FTSI in Mulberry provide sterilization services to the medical device manufacturers. A major coup for the region was Bristol-Myers Squibb’s announcement that it will open a research and development and business support center in Tampa. The pharmaceutical giant will employ approximately 600 at its “North America Capability Center,” with salaries averaging around $65,000.

Financial Services

» With the growth of online and mobile banking, ATMs and electronic trading/brokering, technology has become the backbone of the financial services industry, which employs more than 74,000 in the Tampa Bay region. The industry got its start in the Bay area in 1969, when MetLife decided to build an office in Tampa, and has grown to include Raymond James (Florida’s largest home-grown financial services firm, headquartered in St. Petersburg) and operations of powerhouses such as Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, T. Rowe Price, Franklin Templeton Investments and Morgan Stanley. The Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. (DTCC), which opened a Tampa office in 2004, has also been adding to high-tech job growth in the region. The company, which handles the behind-the-scenes processing of trillions of dollars of stock, bond, mutual fund and options trades, currently employs more than 530 and is adding another 255 high-wage jobs by the end of 2015.

Other financial service vendors in the region include Tampa-based Fintech, which provides data and payment solutions for alcohol distributors and retailers; EFX (Electronic Funds Transfer Experts) Financial Services, a Clearwater company that provides electronic payment processing services and technology; and PSCU in St. Petersburg, which provides traditional and online financial services to credit unions.

Information Technology

» With IT services firms like Tribridge and Indelladon, which Tribridge recently acquired, the Tampa Bay metro area has the highest concentration of IT workers in the state — and needs more. A recent survey of Tampa Bay area companies noted more than 3,500 IT job vacancies. The most in-demand workers desired by local companies are developers, Java programmers, mobile application developers and application architects. Another area of opportunity is the region’s small but growing cyber-security industry. In 2011, Sypris Electronics opened a “Cyber Collaboration Center” at its Tampa headquarters to serve as a “training ground” and “test-bed” for the company’s security engineers. Another Tampa-based cyber-security and technology services firm, Cybrix Group, was 55th on Inc. 500’s list of the nation’s fastest-growing companies in 2011. Cybrix CEO Tim Jones says local industry leaders are pushing to establish a cyber-security institute in the region to provide training and serve as a business accelerator for cyber-security firms. “We need more (firms); we can’t handle all the situations that exist. It’s a key area we’d like to see blossom here in Tampa Bay.”

Hot Company

» St. Petersburg-based Plasma-Therm manufactures etching equipment used to make semiconductor chips for cell phones, Wii controllers and other devices. It employs about 125 in the Tampa Bay area.


» Lighting company LumaStream of St. Petersburg, founded in 2009, manufactures low-voltage LED lighting systems. The company recently teamed up with St. Petersburg College to offer hands-on manufacturing training at its new Midtown manufacturing facility and expects to hire up to 1,000 workers over the next five years.

» With 175,000 workers in more than 30 countries, Jabil Circuit is the region’s largest global employer. The St. Petersburg electronics manufacturer employs 1,600 workers locally at several locations scattered around Pinellas County. It is looking at consolidating its operations at a new worldwide headquarters along the western edge of downtown St. Petersburg near Tropicana Field.


» Over the past decade, the University of South Florida has evolved into a research powerhouse. In 2012, USF researchers received more than $400 million in grants and contracts. The university was granted 98 patents and 52 commercialization/agreements that included 10 startups.

» The St. Petersburg branch of SRI International, a Silicon Valley-based research institute, is working on new technologies related to marine science and maritime/port security. The institute has recently received $1 million from the Helios Education Foundation to create a Center For Digital Learning in St. Petersburg, which aims to enhance student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math.

» Draper Laboratory, an MIT engineering spinoff, operates two research facilities in Tampa Bay. Scientists at the Draper Bioengineering Center at the University of South Florida are working on finding ways to combat malaria and creating post-blast, forensic methods to trace the source of dirty bombs, among other work. Draper also operates a facility in St. Petersburg that manufactures multichip modules, small electronic systems for sensors and communications.

» Moffitt Cancer Center is the only cancer center in the state with a National Cancer Institute designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center and one of the fastest growing cancer centers in the United States. Recent startups spurred by Moffitt research include CvergenX, a molecular diagnostics company that is developing a signature for predicting response to radiation therapy; Modulation Therapeutics, which is developing drugs that target cancers that metastasize to bone marrow; Tampa Medical Innovations (Tami), a medical device company developing a clamp system for IV catheters that eliminates blood loss during IV insertion.

» Florida Polytechnic University is slated to open next year. A signature $134-million Innovation, Science and Technology building is under construction. The Lakeland school will consist of two colleges, offering six programs. Students in the College of Innovation and Technology can major in advanced technology, science or computer science and information technology. College of Engineering students can choose computer engineering, electrical engineering or industrial engineering.