Business Florida 2020 - The Regions
Bay • Calhoun • Escambia • Franklin • Gadsen • Gulf • Holmes • Jackson •Jefferson • Leon • Liberty • Okaloosa • Santa Rosa • Wakulla • walton • washington
Technology and Innovation
Northwest Florida continues to position itself as a cybersecurity leader, with the University of West Florida at the forefront. The UWF Center for Cybersecurity, which opened a headquarters in downtown Pensacola in April 2019, is the regional hub for cybersecurity education and research, offering multidisciplinary programs and certificates, research opportunities, outreach activities and industry partnerships. A designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, UWF is the NSA/DHS Regional Resource Center for the Southeast, providing guidance on cyber defense education to colleges and universities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Puerto Rico.
Elsewhere in Northwest’s technology sector:
• Beast Code, a software firm specializing in operational training, modeling and simulation and data mining primarily for the military, is planning to expand its Fort Walton Beach-based headquarters to accommodate an anticipated 100+ new employees within the next few years. Opened in 2014, Beast Code was recently cited by the economic development group GrowFL among its “50 Florida Companies to Watch.”
• AppRiver, a cybersecurity company based in Gulf Breeze, has been acquired by Dallas-based email security firm Zix. Founded in 2002, AppRiver is a provider of cloud-based cybersecurity and productivity services, serving more than 60,000 companies worldwide with satellite offices in Atlanta, Austin, Canada, the U.K. and Switzerland.
• STARS Alliance, an innovative program championed by Florida State University professor and dean of the FSU College of Communication & Information Larry Dennis, is aimed at recruiting, retaining and graduating more women and minorities in IT. Since its founding in 2005, STARS has grown from its original 10 members to more than 50 colleges and universities throughout the U.S. At FSU, a decade ago, women and minorities made up about 15% of the students enrolled in IT programs; today they are more than 50%.
• Gulf Breeze-based Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine is providing relief for the pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome with a new procedure called “Ultrasound Guided Carpal Tunnel Release.” Using a Mayo Clinic-designed “microknife” inserted through a small incision in the wrist and guided by ultrasound to the injured area, the surgeon is able to see — and precisely cut — the transverse carpal ligament that is causing the pain. Recovery time is reduced to days rather than weeks.
KEY PLAYERS: AppRiver, Gulf Breeze; Bit Wizards, Fort Walton Beach; Digital Boardwalk, Pensacola
Pensacola-based Gulf Power plans to build a 74.5-megawatt solar farm on 697 acres in Jackson County. Construction of the Gulf Power Blue Indigo Solar Energy Center is expected to begin in late 2019 and will employ an estimated 200-250 workers. When completed, the farm will generate enough electricity to power 15,000 homes.
In 2016, Gulf Power and Coronal Energy, powered by Panasonic, joined forces with the U.S. Department of Defense to install the first of 1.5 million solar panels at three sites: Eglin Air Force Base, NAS Pensacola and NAS Whiting Field. The combined facilities became fully operational in summer 2017, and continue to power 18,000 homes annually.
Gulf Power serves approximately 450,000 customers in eight counties throughout Northwest Florida and was acquired by Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy in January 2019. NextEra also owns Florida Power & Light Company, which serves approximately 5 million customer accounts in Florida.
KEY PLAYERS: Duke Energy Florida, St. Petersburg; Gulf Power, Pensacola