FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business


North Central Florida

North Central at a Glance

North Central Florida

Demographics for the North Central region can be found at Business Florida's interactive map of Florida.

Universities/Colleges
• College of Central Florida
• Florida Gateway College
• North Florida Community College
• Santa Fe College
• University of Florida

Airports
• Gainesville Regional
• Ocala International

Innovative ideas and entrepreneurial activity thrive in North Central Florida, a region known for its competitive cost of living, accessibility and abundance of natural resources. As home to the University of Florida — the nation’s 12th largest public research university and one of two officially designated preeminent research universities in Florida — this region offers a highly skilled workforce and the supportive environment emerging companies need.

A well-developed transportation network ensures that businesses have ready access to vital markets via two major interstate highways and multiple additional roadways, rail systems, commercial airports and deepwater ports in Jacksonville, Fernandina and Tampa. In Columbia County, where I-10 and I-75 meet, ground will soon be broken on a 2,600-acre inland port near Lake City.

WHO LIVES HERE

Highly educated North Central Florida’s labor force is among the state’s most highly educated. In Gainesville alone, close to 44% of the residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to the national average of 28%.

Eager to innovate University of Florida is a research powerhouse and catalyst for economic development. In 2012, its faculty snared $644.4 million in research grants, up $25 million from 2011. At the same time, UF’s Office of Technology executed 79 licenses/options and helped start 15 new companies based on university research.

Broad appeal Gainesville is one of "Six Best Cities for Young Professionals to Start a Career," says ComeRecommended.com, citing a "vibrant culture of innovation and entrepreneurship" and attractive starter salaries; on Forbes’ list of "25 Best Places to Retire in 2013" for its low cost of living and reasonable home prices; and, according to NerdWallet.com, the second fastest-growing U.S. city by population, percentage of employed residents and median income for workers.

ECONOMIC LIFE

Life Sciences/Healthcare
Biotech firms in Alachua are growing:
• Nanotherapeutics will add 150 jobs and 145,000 square feet after landing a U.S. Department of Defense contract worth up to $360 million over 10 years to develop drugs to counteract the effects of bioterrorism and radioactive exposure.

• With the acquisition of Pioneer Surgical Technology in 2013, RTI Biologics added metals and synthetics to its portfolio of surgical implants and changed its name to RTI Surgical. Next up: construction of a 41,000-sq.-ft. Logistics and Technology Center in 2014.

• Applied Genetic Technologies (AGTC) has secured $37.5 million in financing to continue its research and development of gene therapies for treatment of rare retinal diseases.

Entrepreneurial Support
North Central is home to three busy incubators providing small business support:

• The Ocala Power Plant is nearly at capacity with 13 resident and three affiliate companies. Among its success stories: DS MediaLabs, a developer of mobile phone apps, where sales grew from $100,000 in 2011 to $1.2 million in 2012.

• Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator in Alachua was named "world’s best university biotech incubator" by the Swedish-based research group UBI and "2013 Incubator of the Year" by the National Business Incubation Association.

• Florida Innovation Hub and its surrounding community — Innovation Square — in downtown Gainesville marked a full year of operation with a new tenant: CurtCo Robb Media, publisher of the luxury consumer guide Robb Report, will recruit software engineers, social networkers and other technology-savvy employees for its shift to more digital products. Since its opening, the Hub has contributed to the creation of 250 jobs.

Information Technology
• Human resources software firm SumTotal Systems, which has hired more than 200 since relocating from Silicon Valley to Gainesville in 2010, will hire another 100 over the next year to serve its growing customer base of 3,500 in nearly 160 countries.

• Boston-based mobile applications developer Mobiquity is expanding into Gainesville with an office at Innovation Square and the promise of 260 jobs over three years.

• Sears Holding Corporation launched its first-ever Technology Undergraduate Educational Partnership in Gainesville in 2013. The 25 UF engineering undergrads selected for internships spent the summer at Sears Holding sites across the U.S., before returning to Gainesville in the fall to continue working on software development for this Fortune 65 integrated retailer.

QUALITY OF LIFE

Relaxed as you want to be North Central is the right combination of bustling urban centers, small towns and picturesque rolling countryside. Paddle the scenic Suwannee or Withlacoochee rivers, hike the Ocala National Forest (be on the lookout for black bears!) or spend time in "old Florida" at historic Cedar Key. Hamilton County is home to the rushing waters of Suwannee River’s Big Shoals State Park, the only white water rapids in the state of Florida. In White Springs, the Stephen Foster State Park hosts the annual Florida Folk Festival, the oldest state-sponsored Folk Festival in the nation.

Artistic and natural attractions There’s indoor fun too. The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville is one of the nation’s largest university-affiliated art museums. Also in Gainesville, the Florida Museum of Natural History is famous for its butterfly rainforest and Florida fossils.

NOTABLE ADDITIONS/EXPANSIONS

Forestry Austria-based Klausner Group plans to build Klausner Lumber One sawmill, a state-of-the-art facility in Suwannee County for processing this region’s abundant southern yellow pine; 700 construction jobs, 350 permanent jobs and an economic impact of $130 million are expected.

Manufacturing Amtec Less-Lethal Systems (ALS) is relocating its headquarters and manufacturing operations from Arkansas to Perry and plans to hire 100 workers within five years. A subsidiary of Amtec Corp., ALS makes munitions equipment and trains law enforcement personnel.

NOTABLE EMPLOYERS

Manufacturing
• Lockheed Martin Ocala Operations Ocala
• Monterey Boats Williston
• Signature Brands Ocala

Healthcare
• Munroe Regional Medical Center Ocala
• Ocala Health System Ocala
• University of Florida Health Gainesville

Logistics and Distribution
• Cheney Brothers Inc. Ocala
• Johnson & Johnson Inc. Madison

Agriculture/Forestry
• Buckeye Technologies Perry
• PCS Phosphate White Springs
• Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation Live Oak
• Suwannee Lumber Company Cross City