Updated 11 months ago
SRI International’s oceanographic research opens the door for a marine science industry cluster in Tampa Bay. [Photo: University of South Florida]
And with its strong record for job creation — 19,600 new jobs in 2006 alone — and a ready workforce of nearly 2 million, this region continues to attract and grow large employers. In fact, fully 60% of the labor force here works for companies with 500 or more employees, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
In Pinellas — Florida’s most densely populated county at 3,300 people per square mile — tourism has long reigned as the leading industry; an estimated 13 million visitors come to the area each year. Lately, however, manufacturing has been coming on strong.
Why the growth of manufacturing in a county known primarily for sunshine and sandy beaches? The strength of its labor force for starters. In 2006, more than 4,600 jobs were created solely in Pinellas County, and for the third straight year, Pinellas led Florida in distribution of state Incumbent Worker Training (IWT) funds — $834,000 went to 34 local companies in 2006 to train existing workers. Another plus — the cost of living in Pinellas County is below the national average, according to the ACCRA index produced by the Council for Community and Economic Research.
Marine science boom
SRI International, a Silicon Valley-based research and technology development company with revenues topping $400 million, announced plans in fall 2006 to build a 30,000-square-foot waterfront facility in downtown St. Petersburg, which will house, among other things, the first National Center for Marine and Port Security. A collaborative venture with the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, the Center’s work will be aimed at exploring improvements in U.S. port security, including the development of underwater imaging technology. Approximately 100 new jobs within the first five years and an economic impact of more than $170 million on the local economy are expected. This new facility also sets the stage for a growing marine science business/research cluster in the Tampa Bay region. Says SRI International CEO Curtis Carlson, Ph.D., “...the institutional infrastructure is in place, and the broad-based support we have received is already creating momentum and terrific potential for our new operation.”
Pinellas by the Numbers
2nd Best Place Overall for manufacturing employment in Florida
3rd Among all Florida counties for the highest number of manufacturing companies
M2Gen will boost Moffitt Center's research [Photo: Moffitt Cancer Center]
It was the opportunity to team up with researchers and practitioners at one of the nation’s premier cancer treatment centers that first caught the attention of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. Now Merck is coming to Tampa to partner with University of South Florida’s H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in developing molecular technology for cancer diagnosis and treatment. Dubbed M2Gen, this joint venture between Merck and Moffitt — the only Florida-based National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center — will allow researchers to analyze tumor tissues for unique genetic components and compare patient responses to specific drugs with an end goal of developing individualized treatments.
A collaborative effort
Merck provided $95 million in cash and other support; Hillsborough County gave another $20 million plus land worth
$8 million; Tampa chipped in $800,000 and land worth $1.2 million; another $15 million came from the Governor’s “closing fund.” The return on that investment will include about 108 Hillsborough-based positions paying an average annual salary of $80,000. Another 1,665 indirect jobs are expected within five years as M2Gen’s arrival spawns other biotech firms. Says Dr. Stephen Friend, Merck executive vice president for oncology and neuroscience, “It is through public-private partnerships like this one that we believe we can advance the discovery, translation and delivery of much-needed personalized therapies for cancer.”
Major drivers of the Tampa Bay economy are Tampa International Airport and the Port of Tampa.
- At TIA, a $2.5 billion-expansion includes a major new terminal complex, new runway, expanded parking and other upgrades needed to accommodate the expected doubling of passengers to
38 million per year by 2025.
- The 5,000-acre Port of Tampa helps create nearly 100,000 area jobs and “is Florida’s largest, most diverse and most?cost-efficient” port, says Director Richard Wainio. A mix of bulk commodities, general and container cargo, cruise business, ship repair and mixed-use real estate “insulate the port from downturns in any one sector,” he says. The cruise sector alone handled 910,000 passengers in 2006. Port upgrades are constant: $41 million in capital projects in 2006; another $362 million in improvements is planned through 2011, largely to expand containerized shipping capabilities.
Sarasota and Manatee Counties
Business Is Booming
Sarasota and Manatee counties are on a roll. In 2007, Inc. magazine ranked the Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice area number 8 on a list of 393 “Boomtowns” and number 3 among mid-sized cities for job growth.
“You can reach 87% of the population of Florida in a one-day drive,” says Steve Kossoff, managing partner for Meridian Development Group of Clearwater. Kossoff built Sarasota’s 907,000-square-foot Meridian Distribution Center, where in mid-2007, United Natural Foods Inc. opened a 400,000-square-foot organic foods distribution hub. “We’re one mile from I-75 in one of the fastest growing areas of the country. And when there’s a fast-growing population, retailers follow,” he adds. Cases in point: Bradenton-based Beall’s Inc. (200,000 square feet) and seafood provider Rilon Management (100,000 square feet).
Finding fertile ground
Bill Kazokas, station manager and tomato breeder for Enza Zaden Research USA, loves Manatee County, as do his Netherlands-based bosses, who selected a site near Myakka for a new 46-acre research campus. Enza Zaden plans to spend $10 million over several years to develop superior varieties of tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, melons and onions in climate-controlled labs and greenhouses. “Cooperative, collaborative openness and support” from area officials played a key role in selecting the Manatee site, says Kazokas.
Location, location: In wealthy Sarasota County
(average income: $49,000+), companies find relocation success.
- Rapid Pathogen Screening, which sells point-of-care diagnostic products for eye conditions, moved its operation from Pennsylvania to the Lakewood Ranch community straddling the Sarasota-Manatee county border.
- Roper Industries, a $1.4-billion-per-year Fortune 1000 company that owns dozens of industrial lines, is moving its headquarters from Georgia to join Rapid Pathogen at Lakewood Ranch.
Across Pasco’s 742 square miles, 100 encompass recreational areas — parks, four artificial reefs (one made of surplus military tanks), more than 25 golf courses and three canoe trails. More than 4,600 acres in the county’s comprehensive plan have been targeted as future sites for high-value industries and corporate business centers.
In June 2007, state healthcare officials gave preliminary approval for a new 80-bed acute care hospital in Wesley Chapel. Construction of the $121-million, three-story structure along State Road 45, just east of I-75, could begin early in 2008.
New Pasco Sites
While the manufacturing, technology and transport/logistics sectors are strong in Pasco, three new mixed-used developments are grabbing the spotlight:
- The Grove at Wesley Chapel — 120 acres devoted to stores, restaurants and entertainment venues with 835,000 square feet of retail space housing 90 tenants. Some 300 residential units are also planned for The Grove, which is expected to open in late 2007 northwest of I-75 at State Road 54.
- Cypress Creek Town Center — 630 acres of retail, restaurant, entertainment and professional space, including a 1.3 million-square-foot mall and 420,000 square feet of office space located at the intersection of I-75 and State Road 56.
- The Shops at Wiregrass — focal point of the 5,022-acre master-planned community, Wiregrass Ranch, which is slated to include 16,000 homes, 4.4 million square feet of commercial space, 3.9 million square feet of office space, schools and a medical center.
Artist’s rendering of The Shops at Wiregrass [Photo: Forest City Enterprises]
Incentives for Growth
In mid-2007, the Citrus Board of County Commissioners approved an incentives package to attract new or expanding businesses. To be eligible, a new employer in a targeted industry must create at least 25 jobs (existing companies must add at least 12 new jobs) paying 115% of the average county wage. To qualify for ad valorem tax relief for up to 10 years, businesses must spend at least $500,000 on capital improvements.
Logistics the Name of the Game
Wayne Kline serves as SCM Institute Manager
Two Polk County colleges are developing programs in logistics management to train personnel for the rapidly expanding transportation/logistics and warehousing/distribution segment of this area’s growing economy.
Polk Community College’s Corporate College in Winter Haven houses the new Supply Chain Management (SCM) Institute, with courses focusing on logistics, transportation, warehousing, information systems and procurement. Established with input from local industry and headed by certified International Trade Specialist Wayne Kline, the Institute expects to train up to 1,000 employees in its first year of operation. Initially, SCM Institute will be a certificate-granting entity; however, plans call for offering associate of applied sciences (AAS) degrees in supply chain management beginning in fall 2008.
The University of South Florida-Lakeland will offer logistics management courses at its new Polytechnic campus, opening in 2010.
Elsewhere in Polk County
- CSX Transportation Inc.’s plans for a massive “integrated logistics center” in Winter Haven. Nicknamed “the mother of all rail yards” by state officials, the 1,250-acre rail-to-truck distribution center is the core of a $500-million deal between CSX and government to reconfigure freight rail traffic statewide and allow commuter rail in the Orlando area. The first phase — a 319-acre rail-to-truck area for shipping containers — is expected to open in two years; the second phase would include 5 million square feet of industrial, warehouse and office space. The 2,000-employee center could have a 10-year, $10-billion economic impact on the region.
- Also in Winter Haven, a $45-million, 150-square-foot Hanson Pipe Co. plant that will employ 50 people to make concrete pipes using an automated process. Hanson was aided by a $250,000 state “Road Fund” grant.
- A 37,000-square-foot addition to the MonierLifetile plant in Lake Wales, which will mean an investment of $31 million and the creation of 42 new jobs with an average wage of $35,000.
Rich in Arts
The arts are alive and thriving throughout the Tampa Bay region. Performance venues include:
- Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa — with 335,000 square feet and five theaters, the largest performing arts complex south of The Kennedy Center.
- Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater — with 2,180 seats for concerts, recitals, plays and Broadway-style productions.
- Mahaffey Theater at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, St. Petersburg — newly renovated offering 2,030 seats and a ballroom.
There are plenty of visual arts to enjoy, too. Florida Southern College in Lakeland boasts the largest on-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world, and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota offers 21 galleries of European paintings, among other exhibits. A new downtown Tampa Museum of Art is slated to open in 2009 adjacent to another new project, the Children’s Museum.
Making an impact
The arts industry represents an economic impact of $404.2 million annually and provides 7,000 jobs in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, according to a 2006 study by the non-profit Tampa Bay Business Committee for the Arts (TBBCA).
Zoned and Ready
Florida’s exact geographic center is located 12 miles northwest of Brooksville in Hernando County; railways and highways (I-75 and the Suncoast Parkway) provide easy access in and out. But it is land — and, in particular, land zoned and ready for industrial and corporate development — that makes this county appealing.
At Hernando County Airport RailPark off U.S. 41, Duratek Precast Structures is building a $12-million facility to manufacture concrete panels for residential, educational and institutional uses. The 75,000-square-foot expansion on a 14-acre site is slated to open late in 2007 and add 90 employees to Duratek’s existing 125. Duratek funded the project using tax-exempt bonds available for manufacturers.
Tissco LLC, a Danish-based maker of beverage-dispensing equipment, will also be moving into the Airport RailPark. Tissco is merging with its sister company Micro Matic and will be expanding into a 50,000-square-foot facility in the second quarter of 2008, doubling its staff to 100 over the next two years. Tissco has been in Hernando since 2001, and COO Torben Toftegaard says the company stayed in the county due to land availability, a fine labor force and the excellent quality of life.
The former Brooksville Regional Hospital is being redeveloped into a 118,000-square-foot mixed-use facility at its 11-acre site. “The Oaks” will include an assisted living facility and office, retail and institutional space.
Where It's At: Downtowns
A portion of the Tampa Riverwalk passes directly in front of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in downtown Tampa. [Photo: Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center]
- In Clearwater, two major projects are helping spark redevelopment downtown: Clearwater Centre is a mix of condos, offices and retail shops in a 15-story tower and a three-story perimeter building financed by Spain-based Grupo OHL. A 115-unit Residence Inn by Marriott is rising on 2.2 acres.
- The Hillsborough River in Tampa is the focal point for an ambitious downtown revitalization project. City officials vow to complete the Tampa Riverwalk by 2009 when Tampa hosts the Super Bowl for the fourth time. The Riverwalk will begin at The Heights, a $1-billion, 1,900-residence, multiuse project on the north edge of downtown, continue through a series of waterfront parks and past the planned new Tampa Museum of Art and Children’s Museum, ending at the booming Channelside District, home to shops, entertainment venues and The Florida Aquarium.
- In downtown St. Petersburg, a $350-million combined retail and condominium complex received approval from the city’s Environmental Development Commission in mid-2007. The contemporary-styled Tropicana Center complex will include two condo towers (36 and 33 stories respectively) with nearly 600 residential units above two levels (110,000 square feet) of retail space and 880-parking spaces. Ground-breaking is expected by the end of 2007.
• Clearwater Christian College
• Eckerd College
• Florida College
• Florida Southern College
• New College of Florida
• Ringling School of Art and Design
• Saint Leo University
• Southeastern University
• University of South Florida
• University of Tampa
• Warner Southern College
• Webber International University
• Webster College
• Hillsborough Community College
• Manatee Community College
• Pasco-Hernando Community College
• Polk Community College
• St. Petersburg College
• St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport
• Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport
• Tampa International
• Port Manatee
• Port of St. Petersburg
• Port of Tampa