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The best defense...

(Mark Wemple)

Florida’s 22 major military installations and the related defense industry pump billions of dollars into the state’s economy while providing 124,500 Department of Defense jobs and thousands more indirectly. The state’s population of retired veterans is also substantial, and many service men and women try to make their final posting in Florida so that they can live and work here full time when they retire.

The lure of Florida is obvious.

It’s warm, there are plenty of job opportunities, beautiful beaches are a short drive away from most areas, and there’s no income tax. There are other advantages as well, ranging from our seven V.A. medical centers to favorable college tuition rates.

See a map of all the state’s military bases, ranging from the Naval Air Station in Pensacola to the Fourth Fleet in Mayport, then down to the Air Force base in Homestead and, of course, Key West. Florida is the only state with three unified commands — the U.S. Central Command and the Special Ops Command, both at MacDill in Tampa, and the Southern Command in Doral. We have almost as many generals as the Pentagon (well, almost).

According to Bruce Grant, vice president of Enterprise Florida, there’s nothing more critical than protecting the Joint Gulf Range Complex, an area of some 180,000 square miles off Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil drilling is prohibited there as the Air Force and Navy use the area for practice. You can imagine how an array of oil derricks could interfere with Department of Defense exercises in the Gulf.

That’s why it’s so important to continue prohibiting oil drilling off our coast — to say nothing of the damage it would do to our tourism industry.

Florida has seen the growth of small-business incubators and accelerators in every corner of the state. Venture City in Miami has been successfully merging tech ventures with financing and support. It is backing companies from every corner of the globe, particularly South America and Europe, with an eye on Asia. See our report on Venture City.

Also in this month’s issue, you’ll find reports on clean manufacturing in all the Around the State sections. The subsector of manufacturing is becoming increasingly important as we shift to less environmentally harmful clean and green growth.

St. Petersburg is home to the magazine and to much of its staff, so I’m particularly pleased that Florida Trend is focusing on the “Burg” this month. Read the portrait.

If you haven’t visited St. Petersburg recently, it’s time to take a look. Like many parts of Florida, St. Pete is growing rapidly. Apartments and condominiums have popped up everywhere; new hotels, restaurants and business offices are springing up overnight. The city has a thriving arts community — the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art opens this spring, while the American Arts and Crafts Museum is set to open in 2019. They join the esteemed Dali Museum (Florida’s most-visited art museum), the encyclopedic Museum of Fine Arts, the Florida Holocaust Museum and the Chihuly Collection.

My family had a notable loss just before Christmas when my father-in- law, Bill Wallace, passed away at age 90. In addition to a long career in the insurance industry, he was president of The Florida Orchestra, president of Tampa Bay’s public broadcasting station and founder of a medical trust that protects physicians. He will be sorely missed by more than just my family.

— Andy Corty


See other stories from Florida Trend's February issue.

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