Updated 12 months ago
"We weren’t hit as much by the construction downturn. We don’t have all our eggs in one basket." — Mike Meidel, economic development director for Pinellas County
Tampa / Hillsborough County
|See population, income and job statistics from this region.
Hillsborough County, with the area’s lowest unemployment rate at 9.1%, is faring better than most of the Tampa Bay region. “We are continuing to be contacted by companies. We have companies that are continuing to expand in the region,” says Keith A. Norden, executive managing director of the Committee of 100 of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
Gene Gray, economic development director for Hillsborough County, is cautiously optimistic but warns that many projects now in the pipeline have been in the works since before the full force of the recession took hold — unless the economy turns around, the economic development pipeline could dry up six or eight months from now, he says, adding, “2009 is going to continue to be a difficult year.”
Still, Gray sees strength in relocations and expansions in the manufacturing and life sciences sector. Cambridge, Mass.-based Draper Laboratory is setting up a high-profile nanotechnology research and development facility at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The operation, called BioMEMS, will develop tiny medical devices for medical diagnostics and therapies. Draper also has a facility in Pinellas County.
Rogel agrees that health-related industries are a bright spot for the region. But he remains concerned about the availability of financing for projects. “I’m sure a lot of people are just parking their dollars.”
Mike Meidel heads Pinellas County’s economic development office. St. Petersburg’s scarcity of buildable space during the condo boom has turned out to be a silver lining. [Photo: Mark Wemple]
Businesses to Watch
|» USAA is hiring 400 for a Tampa facility that will replace centers in California and Virginia.
|» Brimmer, Burek & Keelan in Tampa is hiring managers and senior staff with experience in public accounting.
|» TECO Energy is hiring electrical engineers and a gas supply operations administrator in Tampa and a supervisor
in Apollo Beach.
|» ATK in Clearwater is hiring design engineers, mechanical engineers, systems engineers, contract managers and others.
|» Bankers Insurance Group is hiring claims inspectors, customer service representatives, sales representatives and others.
» Catalina Marketing Corp. is hiring software support personnel, analysts and programmers.
|» Soft Computer Consultants is hiring product specialists, healthcare support workers, business analysts and others.
|» The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast is hiring nurses, pharmacy technicians, drivers, accountants and others.|
» Tampa business software and IT service provider Tribridge is dramatically expanding its geographic reach by merging with Rochester, N.Y.-based Navint Consulting. While Tribridge, which specializes in Microsoft business software, has focused on the southeast and central U.S., Navint’s strength is in the northeast and western U.S. The combined company will have 320 employees.
People to Watch
» Len Polizzotto, head of strategic business development for Draper Laboratory, was instrumental in bringing both SRI International — his former employer — and Draper Laboratory to the Tampa Bay area. Although still based in the Boston area, he makes frequent trips to St. Petersburg and Tampa to oversee the BioMEMS research facility at USF and Draper’s soon-to-open 65-employee facility in Pinellas County, where it makes specialized electronic packages called multichip modules. Polizzotto spent 25 years with Polaroid Corp., holds nine patents and is the author of numerous articles on human color perception, digital imaging and microphotography.
Jane Mason has doubled her staff at eMason in Clearwater over the past year. The company helps financial institutions evaluate residential mortgage workout options. [Photo: Kelly LaDuke]
» Gregory Celestan, CEO of Celestar Corp., is capitalizing on the expansion of U.S. military and international operations around the world with his Tampa company. Celestan spent 20 years in the Army as a foreign area officer specializing in Russia and Central Asia. Upon his retirement from the Army in 2004, he turned his full focus to Celestar, which he launched in 2001. The company provides intelligence analysis, planning and support and intelligence training. It has two prime contracts with U.S. Central Command and works as a subcontractor to Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors. The company employs 67 and expects to add five to 10 employees this year.
St. Petersburg / Pinellas County
Pinellas County’s population density and the scarcity of buildable space during the boom has turned out to be a silver lining for the area. “We weren’t hit as much by the construction downturn,” says Mike Meidel, economic development director for Pinellas County. “We don’t have all our eggs in one basket.”
While St. Petersburg and the rest of Pinellas continue to be a tourist destination and a retirement haven, two high-profile technology companies, SRI International and Draper Laboratory, are poised to change the business community. “Just the fact that they are here brings interest in the area,” says Dave Goodwin, economic development director for St. Petersburg. SRI International’s 30,000-sq.-ft. marine technology research and development facility is under construction in downtown St. Petersburg.
Apart from technology, St. Petersburg’s downtown is feeling its share of economic pain. The city’s landmark BayWalk retail complex is in foreclosure, and a public auction for the property in February failed to attract any buyers. Still, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker says interested parties have contacted his office. He adds, “I’m hoping that we can put something together in the next six months.”
Businesses to Watch
» Clearwater-based eMason is playing a key role in helping financial institutions evaluate residential mortgage workout options. “I’m in the right place at the right time,” says company founder and CEO Jane Mason. The Clarifire web-based software application is being used by Fannie Mae, Bank of America and other mortgage-servicing firms to respond to customer requests for loan modifications and other mortgage actions. Started five years ago, eMason employs 50, up from 25 a year ago. To meet demand in early 2009, eMason has been hiring five to 10 business analysts, programmers, project managers and other technology-oriented professionals a week. The company plans to expand its products to the insurance industry by the end of the year.
» Three years ago, Sam Phillips, dean of the School of Orthotics and Prosthetics at St. Petersburg College, University of South Florida researcher Kathryn De Laurentis and graduate school friend Charles Pfeiffer launched Fourier Designs in Largo. Their first project is a prosthetic wrist that improves a person’s ability to button a shirt or lift a spoon. Working with Enterprise Florida, the company received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant that allowed them to successfully apply for a $100,000 phase one SBIR grant through the National Institutes for Health. Next up is an application for a $750,000 phase two SBIR grant that will allow the company to begin clinical trials.
People to Watch
Sidney W. Morgan, president of central Florida commercial operations for Humana, is in charge of developing and implementing strategic initiatives, including the new Humana Cares healthcare facility in St. Petersburg.
» Paul Reilly will become president of St. Petersburg-based Raymond James Financial on May 1. In 2010, he will succeed Tom James as CEO, one of the highest profile jobs in the Tampa Bay area. A native of St. Petersburg, Reilly joins Raymond James Financial from executive search firm Korn/Ferry International, where he is executive chairman. Reilly has served on the Raymond James Financial board of directors since 2005.
Lakeland / Polk County
Halfway between Tampa and Orlando, Lakeland and surrounding Polk County have attracted clusters of industrial warehouse and distribution facilities. Despite the recession, business is still coming. “We’ve had two 50,000-sq.-ft. deals in the last few months,” says Steve Scruggs, executive director of the Lakeland Economic Development Council. Business activity slowed in the last six months of 2008, but, he says, “January picked up significantly.” Scruggs says that residential and retail activity continue to be slow, but, he adds, “Commercially — office and industrial warehouse — we’re continuing to see activity and doing deals.”
Businesses to Watch
» Colorado mail order pharmacy and benefits management company WellDyneRx is investing $20 million to establish a southeastern operations center. The company has leased 66,000 square feet and over the next two years will hire 670 workers, including pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, call center workers and accounting and information technology personnel.
» GTech Printing, a printer of gaming and lottery tickets, will open a 100,000-sq.-ft. facility in Lakeland this spring. The company initially will employ 100 and add 100 or more jobs over the next three to five years.
The biggest potential Pasco County economic development project is in the financial services sector. T. Rowe Price is considering relocating from Tampa to Land O’ Lakes. The county and state have already approved incentives. Should a deal come through, the mutual funds company would move 435 workers to a 150,000-sq.-ft. building starting in 2010. The company would add 1,215 jobs and build two additional 150,000-sq.-ft. buildings starting in 2012. “It will show that Pasco is serious about economic development,” says Mary Jane Stanley, president and CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council. While the county’s real estate sector remains stagnant, Stanley says Pasco is using the time to work on a new strategic plan and look at the county’s “processes,” such as zoning, permits and other ways to serve the business sector. She says, “We’re looking at it as an opportunity to retool.”
Business to Watch
» The 26-year-old Independent Savings Plan Co. is taking advantage of the trend toward green living. It offers financing for home improvement products, particularly solar and other environmentally friendly goods. The company’s new 41,400-sq.-ft. headquarters is located in Odessa.
Small precision manufacturing businesses aren’t going to save Hernando County’s economy overnight. But economic development officials hope that available buildings and a workforce trained in part through a proposed engineering and precision-machine career academy at Nature Coast Technical High School will make the area a manufacturing center. Intrepid Machine moved into its new Hernando facility in December, and this spring Chasco Machine and Manufacturing is relocating its aerospace industry parts business from Pasco County to the Hernando County Airport Industrial Park. In all, the county has nine or 10 precision manufacturing businesses that produce parts for aerospace, medical and defense industries, says Mike McHugh, director of the Hernando County Office of Business Development. He adds, “It is an area that we have put as a top priority for the county.” Although most Hernando residential development is stalled, national retailers are starting to open long-planned stores in the area. A Best Buy recently opened in Spring Hill, with Sports Authority next on the list for the retail center. Along the Suncoast Parkway, Target and Kohl’s will open this year.
Business to Watch
» The U.S. headquarters of Germany-based R&M Ship Technologies opened in October at the Airport Industrial Park in Brooksville. R&M makes prefabricated and semi-prefabricated cabins for cruise ships, ferries and other sea vessels. The company employs 12 and is the first international company to expand into Hernando County.
The collapse of the county’s residential real estate industry has left Citrus County with one of the state’s highest unemployment rates, 11.4%. To help diversify the economy, Citrus County Economic Development Council Executive Director Randy Welker is working on developing a business incubator at the planned 64-acre business park at Inverness Airport. The county also is setting up a new transportation planning organization that will give the area more clout in funding its transportation needs, a critical component in attracting business. Says Welker, “When you go through a crisis, people have to change.” One bright spot for the county is Progress Energy’s plan to build another nuclear power plant over the border in Levy County.
Business to Watch
» Ron DeSerranno has built a successful software company, Mobiform Software, in Crystal River even though finding experienced software developers in the area can be difficult. The 12-employee company, launched in Vancouver, Canada, in 2002, specializes in products for .NET software development based on Microsoft’s Windows Presentation Foundation, or WPF. Clients include Fortune 500 companies in manufacturing, power and utilities, automation and other industries.
|MSA||Jan. 2008||Jan. 2009||% Change||Jobless Rate|
|Lakeland / Winter Haven
|Tampa / St. Pete / Clearwater||1,237,100||1,194,900||-3.4%||9.7%|
|Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation|
|Single-family, existing-home sales by Realtors|
|MSA||Jan. 2009 Sales||1-Year Change||Jan. 2009 Price||1-Year Change|
|Lakeland / Winter Haven
|Tampa / St. Pete / Clearwater||1,573||+17%||$122,400||-33%|
|Source: Florida Association of Realtors|
|2.4% or higher 1.0% - 2.4% 1.0% or less|
|COUNTY||2009||Average Annual Growth|
|POPULATION BY AGE|
|Years of Age (2009)|
|PER CAPITA INCOME|
|COUNTY||Per Capita Income 2009||Source of Income|