Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Florida's high-tech economy matures

(Mark Wemple)

Usually when we think of technology, the mind turns toward California’s Silicon Valley, the Research Triangle in North Carolina, Route 128 around Boston and Austin, Texas.

High Tech Corridor

It’s now time to add Florida’s High Tech Corridor to the mix. The Corridor runs from Tampa Bay through Orlando and to the Atlantic Coast, with an important “bump” reaching up to Gainesville.

The Corridor is anchored by three great state universities — the University of Florida, the University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida. Other important schools also play a vital role, including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne and Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland, among others.

All work together to help the private sector grow. The number of companies and employees is already staggering, with triple the results of a decade ago and salaries averaging $60,000 to $90,000.

I’m impressed with the aerospace growth, and particularly the new BRIDG advanced manufacturing facility in Osceola County, where Harris will be the first tenant. See our section starting here (on page 44 of the print issue).

The whole concept of driverless cars scares me. But state Sen. Jeff Brandes assures that “the first two minutes you’re holding onto your seat, but then the next couple minutes you’re amazed at all the gadgetry. And after that, you’re simply bored,” by which he means you have the opportunity to read or text or talk without worrying about driving.

Florida has been in the forefront of autonomous vehicle testing. The technology of sensors and communication is developing rapidly.

A driverless Florida means fewer vehicles sitting around, fewer parking spots, fewer accidents, increased mobility for elders and lower insurance costs. You might even expect less road infrastructure.

While technological advances lead to greater efficiencies, it also means fewer traditional jobs — mechanics, garage attendants, truck drivers, cabbies — and more in technology fields.

Like it or not, driverless vehicles will become a bigger part of our lives at some point in the near future. Access the article here (on page 72 in the print issue).

Transportation and trade are crucial to Florida’s economic growth. The state boasts 15 deepwater ports that host more than 15 million cruise passengers. They load and unload more than 100 million tons of cargo. Our four hub airports — in Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa — serve 135 million passengers, not counting the other 16 airports that are also growing. Our roads and rail and space ports are equally important in moving people and materials around Florida.

But there’s uncertainty these days. If the federal government pulls out of international agreements, will that hurt the industry? Florida has invested tens of millions in ports, supported road expansion and approved enhancements at airports across the state.

Will business falter if dollars are pulled from tourism marketing or if Enterprise Florida’s efforts to boost exports and imports are blocked? Or is Florida now large enough to weather these blows? Personally, I believe Florida will persevere even if the environment becomes more challenging. See our report here (on page 16 of the print issue).

If you are planning a trip this summer, please consider staying in Florida. There’s so much here to enjoy, from the pristine beaches of the Great Northwest to the verve of the Southeast and to the museums, golf and nature in between. Our section on Florida Getaways is online here (on page 87 in print issue).

— Andy Corty


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