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Tampa Bay: Research Reigns

Tampa Bay
Demographics for the Tampa Bay Region can be found at Business Florida's interactive map of Florida.
Tampa Bay Resources:

• Clearwater Christian College
• Eckerd College
• Everest University
• Florida College
• Florida Southern College
• Hillsborough Community College
• Manatee Community College
• New College of Florida
• Pasco-Hernando Community College
• Polk College
• Ringling School of Art and Design
• Saint Leo University
• St. Petersburg College
• Southeastern University
• University of South Florida
• University of Tampa
• Warner Southern College
• Webber International University

• St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport
• Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport
• Tampa International Airport

• Port Manatee
• Port of St. Petersburg
• Port of Tampa

More and more companies are discovering why Florida’s eight-county Tampa Bay region is a great place to do business.

• It’s economical. According to the 2008 KPMG Competitive Alternatives Business Cost Index, Tampa Bay is No. 2 of the top 25 major U.S. markets for lowest business costs.

• It’s accessible. Conde Nast Traveller recognizes Tampa International Airport as one of the top three airports worldwide, and cargo moves easily to and from global destinations through Port Manatee and the Port of Tampa.

• It’s home to the University of South Florida, which, in recent years, has become a drawing card for world-renowned R&D facilities.


Draper Chooses Tampa Bay: Cambridge, Mass.-based Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. is the latest R&D firm with plans to establish a presence in Florida.

In July 2008, the Laboratory’s CEO Jim Shields announced that Draper would build two facilities in the Tampa Bay region — a BioMEMS R&D Center at the University of South Florida in Tampa and a Multi Chip Module (MCM) Center in St. Petersburg. Together, the facilities will create 165 new jobs, with an average annual wage of $75,000. As an integral player in the micro-technology cluster forming around the University of South Florida, SRI-St. Petersburg and others in the Tampa Bay region, Draper is expected to spawn additional economic development, including spin-off companies and high-wage jobs.

Draper’s expansion into Florida is a collaborative effort with USF, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida High Tech Corridor Council, Enterprise Florida, the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development and other public- and private-sector entities.

The BioMEMS R&D Center in Tampa will work in partnership with USF and its medical school to develop smaller and more functional medical devices using microelectronic mechanical systems (MEMS) technologies. The St. Petersburg lab will develop multichip modules for use in complex electronic equipment. In addition, Draper will work with Progress Energy Florida to improve efficiency at its coal-fired power plants.

More New Developments from Tampa/Hillsborough County:
» Cott Corporation, one of the world’s largest non-alcoholic beverage companies with operations in 60 countries, opened a 60,000-square-foot global office in 2008, doubling Cott’s Tampa employment to more than 200. The office serves as U.S. headquarters, and its employees work with Cott operations in other countries, including Mexico and the United Kingdom. “We appreciate the assistance offered by the Governor’s office, Enterprise Florida and Hillsborough County, who helped make our new expansion possible,” says Cott CEO Brent Willis.

» Swedish furniture icon Ikea is building a 350,000-square-foot store east of downtown Tampa near Ybor City. “From Mayor Pam Iorio’s office to every official we have worked with, we’re thrilled with the reception we’ve gotten in the city,” says Ikea spokesman Joseph Roth. The project means 500 construction jobs now, with an anticipated 400 new jobs when the store opens in mid-2009.

Burgeoning Cluster:
Medical Products

Tampa Bay’s growing medical products industry contributes $3.4 billion in direct economic output and, at 12,000 workers region-wide, accounts for 26% of Florida’s total medical products industry employment. Some 9,000 Bay area workers are employed in the medical device sector alone.

“The growth of the medical products industry in Tampa Bay has been incredible,” says Geary Havran, president of NDH Medical Inc. and chair of the Florida Medical Manufacturers’ Consortium.


SRI Blossoms: SRI, the Silicon Valley-based R&D company that came to Pinellas County in 2006 in order to be near USF’s renowned College of Marine Science, continues to blossom. While plans for construction of its 36,000-square-foot permanent research facility in downtown St. Petersburg proceed, 60 employees are working in temporary offices on projects for Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, NOAA, the National Science Foundation and the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command. Most recently, SRI landed a $36.5-million antiterrorism contract with the U.S. Navy and played a pivotal role in helping to attract the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory to Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Tapping into Incentives

In Clearwater, more than 40 employees at Formulated Solutions’ 34,000-square-foot facility offer pharmaceutical, cosmetic, personal care and specialty chemical products and services.

“Pinellas County Economic Development has been working with us for several years, and introduced us to some cost-saving incentives and redevelopment tools to make this kind of growth possible,” says the firm’s president, Eric Dann. Among those tools: a real estate database which helped the company locate possible expansion sites.

With guidance from local economic developers, Formulated Solutions was able to receive state sales tax exemptions on electricity and steam and machinery and equipment. In addition, the company tapped the state’s Incumbent Worker Training Program to prepare 22 of its employees for advanced manufacturing.

Gateway Boom: The Villages at Gateway Fields — a massive development coming to central Pinellas County in the busy Gateway business district — will mean jobs, affordable housing andnew recreational amenities.

In mid-2008, the Pinellas County Commission approved plans by Florida Gateway Development LLC to create a mixed-use development on a 240-acre site in northeast St. Petersburg. Pending further approvals, the project would include 70 acres of parks and recreation facilities, a 2,113-unit residential village with workforce housing, 375 hotel rooms, 2 million square feet of office space and 1.5 million square feet of retail. Some 11,000 construction jobs and, eventually, 12,000 retail and office jobs are expected to result.

Also in the Gateway district, electronics distributor New Advantage Corporation plans to add more than 300 jobs in coming years and has built a new 70,000-square-foot, $8.5 million office and warehouse facility. Company founder and CEO Johnathan Stanton, who started selling electronics from his house in 1994, expects more than $30 million in annual sales in 2008. Economic development officials from the city of St. Petersburg “helped me meet the right people, go through the right processes,” says Stanton. “I would encourage anybody to call them, and also to call the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. They’ll help you a lot.”

Swimmers at Fanning Springs
New Advantage Corporation’s recent expansion means more space and new jobs, says Executive VP John Connolly. [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]
USF Polytechnic
USF Polytechnic students enjoy one-on-one attention. [Photo: Joseph Gamble]

With more than 45,000 students at campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland, and with $300 million in annual sponsored research funding, the University of South Florida is an economic powerhouse for Tampa Bay.

At USF’s new Center of Excellence for Biomolecular Identification and Targeted Therapeutics, more than 80 faculty from 22 departments collaborate on joint multidisciplinary projects.

In Polk County, USF’s Lakeland campus is Florida’s first polytechnic university. USF Polytechnic “is an affirmation of USF’s commitment to principles of access and excellence in public higher education, and it recognizes the strong regional campus model we are building,” says USF President Judy Genshaft.

Meanwhile, at St. Petersburg College, enrollment was up by 10% in fall 2008. Founded as a junior college, SPC today offers 2- and 4-year degrees to 63,000 students. New in 2008: bachelor degree programs in educational services, health services administration and management and organizational leadership.

Hillsborough Community College offers 150 associate degree and certificate programs to 42,000 students. At its newest campus — HCC SouthShore — a partnership program with Saint Leo and Webster universities allows students to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

PASCO County

Ripe for Expansion: With urban centers just minutes away via the Suncoast Parkway and I-75 and plenty of low-cost land available, Pasco is ideally situated for business expansion.

One success story is The LeverEdge, a distributor of solar water heating, solar pool heating and water purification systems. The company is building an $8.4-million, 94,000-square-foot corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility in Odessa on a 10-acre site. Co-owner Robert Schabes praises officials with Pasco County Economic Development Council for their help.

American Body Company built a new, 80,000-square-foot plant on a 20-acre site in the North Suncoast Industrial Park. At the park located near the Suncoast Parkway and State Road 54 — one of several major east-west roads in Pasco — the company’s 100 employees manufacture truck bodies for delivery fleets.

Development plans have been filed with Pasco County for a $31.5-million sports and entertainment complex in Wesley Chapel. The proposed 288,000-square-foot SportsPlex USA would be roughly twice the size of a Wal-Mart Supercenter and built on 22 acres of land at Old Pasco Road and County Road 54, near the newly opened Grove at Wesley Chapel mixed-use development.

Sarasota & Manatee Counties

On the Grow: Since 1996, Sarasota-based PPi Technologies Global has been making environmentally friendly, stand-up pouches for drinks — “the shot without the glass” — as well as the machinery to fill those pouches.

PPi has 35 employees and, in 2008, moved into its new 15,000-square-foot training plant and showroom on Northgate Boulevard across from its manufacturing facility. This is PPi’s fifth expansion in 14 years, and the company gets lots of help from local government and economic development officials, says Charles Murray, CEO of the privately held firm.

“We have lot of clients from up north, and Sarasota gives us a tremendous opportunity during the long northern winters. We have visitors here 150 days a year, and they love it,” says Murray, noting that getting to and from Sarasota is easy, via the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, which serves more than 1.6 million passengers annually.

New Downtown Face: In July 2008, Sarasota city commissioners gave the go-ahead to a $1-billion mixed-use real estate development project that could change the face of downtown Sarasota. The Proscenium project, which is proposed to encompass more than six acres on two city blocks, will include some 200 upscale condominiums, a luxury hotel and an 800-seat theater, plus office space and shops. Slated completion date is 2011.

More Manatee Expansion

Manufacturers find the right business environment.

» Pierce Manufacturing, the Wisconsin-based maker of fire trucks and other rescue apparatus, is expanding production of its Medtec ambulance line at the company’s Bradenton facility. Pierce will add about 140 more employees over two years, growing to about 450 employees in all.

» Orbeco-Hellige Inc., a manufacturer of instruments for testing water and wastewater, is relocating from Long Island to a 15,000-square-foot facility in Bradenton. Company President Brad Martell cited low costs, reasonably priced homes and proximity to Port Manatee as reasons for choosing the new site.

A Supportive Climate: Local officials on both sides of the line between Sarasota and Manatee counties work to keep the business climate energized. Consider, for example, Sun Hydraulics Corporation, a leading designer and manufacturer of high-performance hydraulic cartridge valves and manifolds. The company is headquartered in Sarasota, with facilities and 600 employees in both Sarasota and Manatee counties. In the coming years, Sun expects to grow its facilities in Manatee County and, in anticipation of the estimated 170 new jobs that will result, from the $25-million expansion, both counties have pledged $102,000 each in tax incentives.

Combining Forces: Manatee and Sarasota counties are partnering to pursue computer software, health and life science businesses, too. The area is already home to several biotech entities, including the U.S. subsidiary of Haemacure Corporation in Sarasota. The Canadian-based specialty bio-therapeutics company has built a new 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Manatee, including a clean room.

In Sarasota, the nonprofit Roskamp Institute is dedicated to finding cures for neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, with an emphasis on Alzheimer’s disease. Roskamp is home to Florida’s first three-year neuroscience Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders research doctorate program, a partnership with England’s Open University.

POLK County

Discount grocer Aldi plans 25 stores in Florida and a headquarters to serve them. [Photo: Aldi]

Location, Location: This county’s central location and the fact that I-4 cuts a 35-mile-long swath from east to west have long been attractive for distribution- and logistics-oriented development. Among the companies taking advantage of this attribute are Ford Motor Company, Best Buy and Sherwin-Williams. Polk Community College’s Supply Chain Management Institute provides state-of-the-art training for high-wage jobs in the supply chain management and logistics industries.

Kevin Hoover, vice president with real estate giant CB Richard Ellis, notes that 9 million Floridians reside within a 100-mile radius. “It just makes sense for companies to have a presence in Polk County.”

Hoover helped German discount specialty grocer Aldi choose Haines City for a 500,000-square-foot, $40-million, 150-employee distribution/headquarters facility to service the 25 stores the company is opening in Florida.

“The community has been terrific to work with, says Aldi’s Florida Vice President Dave Behm. “We’ve had a lot of help in getting approvals.” Under an impact fee mitigation program recently approved by the Polk County Commission, Aldi could get breaks totaling some $500,000.

Companies with a significant presence in Polk include JCPenney, Home Depot, Rooms To Go, Saddle Creek Corporation, Southern Wine and Spirits, Advance Auto Parts and Publix Super Markets. Headquartered in Polk County, Publix has 940 supermarkets in five states and more than 140,000 employees, 3,000 of whom work in Polk County.

On the retail side, the $500-million Posner Park — a 386-acre development at I-4 and U.S. 27 in Davenport — includes anchor tenants JCPenney, Michaels and PetSmart; each opened in mid-2008. By late 2008, Posner expects to open a full 500,000 square feet of the project.


Development Aplenty: Recent developments in Citrus County include a new Publix supermarket in Homosassa and a new 75-room Holiday Inn Express, conveniently located for golfing enthusiasts near the world-famous Black Diamond Quarry course. Also new to the area: Integrated Alligator Industries, where gators are raised, their hides processed and high-end wallets, belts, purses and other products crafted. The plant employs 15 workers; plans call for 50 more.

A massive project planned just to the north in Levy County could have significant impact on Citrus in the coming years. If Progress Energy Florida goes ahead with its plans to build a $17-billion nuclear plant in southern Levy, hundreds of permanent and temporary jobs will open up and the spending power they bring is sure to have long-term effects on this area’s economy.

Growing the Workforce

Experienced Minds
“Experienced Minds” helps seasoned workers acquire most-needed skills.
Three Citrus County entities have pooled forces to create a one-of-a-kind job development program that is a unique approach to growing a quality workforce.

Dubbed “Experienced Minds,” this program is the brainchild of Citrus County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Randy Welker. With 32% of his county’s population at age 55 or above, Welker reasoned there was a ready labor pool equipped with both experience and a strong work ethic just waiting to be tapped; all they needed was an invitation and a program that would train them in the workforce skills most needed by area businesses.

With a good deal of help from Central Florida Community College, which offered its Lecanto campus as a class site, and CLM Workforce Connection, which coordinates regional employment and training services, “Experienced Minds” was off and running. Its first class of 35 students graduated in June 2008.

CLM Workforce Senior Vice President Margaret Spontak says the program fills both a niche and a need. “These people have had careers, they’ve done a lot, they have a lot of ability and they’re very hard working,” she says. “Now, they’re trained and screened, and they have acquired the skills they need to serve the companies we hope to draw to the region.”

Hernando County

Activity All Around: Real estate investment firm DBSI plans to develop more than 3 million square feet of industrial space on about 150 acres one mile east of Interstate 75 on Kettering Road in east Hernando County. The Idaho-based firm considers the site a prime location for a logistics/distribution center, as did retail giant Wal-Mart, which already operates a distribution center on adjacent property.

Expansion is under way at Hernando County Airport, too. Jet I.C.U, the air ambulance service based at the airport since mid-2008, has built a new hangar for its four LearJets. Nearby, American Aviation, a fixed-base operator in Hernando for close to 30 years, has added a hangar for corporate jets.

In Brooksville, Metro Bay Development continues its transformation of the Old Brooksville Regional Hospital into a 110,000-square-foot multi-use complex, including an assisted living facility, office buildings and retail space.

And at Pasco-Hernando Community College, where course enrollment for fall 2008 is up by more than 10% over the previous year, ground has been broken on a new Spring Hill campus near U.S. 19 and County Line Road. When the new campus opens in summer 2010, plans call for closing the school’s other Spring Hill location in order to focus on increasing programs and course offerings.

Jet I.C.U.
Jet I.C.U. offers 24/7 air ambulance service from Hernando County Airport.

The Tampa Bay Technology Forum is dedicated to promoting high-technology growth and industry throughout this region. Founded in 2000, TBTF today represents more than 400 technology and business firms, investors, government units, educational institutions and related entities. Through events, education, networking, advocacy and philanthropy programs, TBTF is bringing all of these constituents together with one goal in mind: to position Tampa Bay as a top-tier technology market by 2015.