Smaller Cities Becoming Hotbeds for High-Tech Growth
By utilizing the strengths of existing business as well as government and academia, smaller cities are becoming hotbeds for the biotech, IT, renewable energy technologies, aerospace/defense, digital media, and a host of other high-tech endeavors.
Monique Wassenaar Silverio (November 2010)
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Top sectors include film/digital media, optics and photonics, aviation/aerospace, and information technology. With the advent of the University of Central Florida's (UCF) College of Medicine and emergence of the region's new "medical city," Orlando also is gaining a reputation as a thriving life sciences/biotech location.
With a population of more than two million, Orlando is among the nation's fastest-growing regions. It also is surprisingly young, with more than one third of the population between 18 and 44, and has a long history of entrepreneurial activity. Unique resources, such as the Disney Entrepreneur Center - one of only two such centers in the nation - and the UCF Technology Incubator, help keep this community among top locations for innovative companies and entrepreneurs.
Metro Orlando also is home to GrowFL, the state of Florida's pioneering "economic gardening" program, which identifies and nurtures high-potential, mid-sized businesses in the second stage of development.
When it comes to local talent, many of Orlando's educational institutions are geared toward technology research and training. The UCF in Orlando and the University of South Florida in Tampa anchor Florida's high-tech corridor, providing undergraduate and graduate programs in specialties ranging from microelectronics to bio-med.
Commenting on Metro Orlando's talent, Mary Spio, president of Next Galaxy Media, says, "As a video technology, marketing, and production company, we work with major clients like Toyota, Microsoft XBOX, and the Black-Eyed Peas, and have had offices in New York and Los Angeles, but there are so many pluses of being headquartered in Orlando. This place is full of creative talent and energy."
Pittsburgh, which has a population of about two million, has transformed itself from the City of Steel to a center for high-tech innovation, including green technology, education and training, and R&D. According to President Barack Obama, "Pittsburgh stands as a bold example of how to create new jobs and industries while transitioning to a 21st century economy."
Notes White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, "It's an area that has seen its share of economic woes in the past, but because of foresight and investment is now renewed - giving birth to industries that are creating the jobs of the future."
"In Pittsburgh, you can connect and network with the right person at the right time because the region is not too big, but it's certainly not too small," says Pete DeComo, chairman and CEO of ALung Technologies, which produces respiratory assist technologies that provide an alternative to traditional invasive respiratory support. As testament to this, The Economist named Pittsburgh the nation's "Most Livable City" in 2009.
DeComo continues: "There is also the will to grow Pittsburgh into a prestigious technology center. ALung has chosen to expand on Pittsburgh's historic Southside, an area once at the heart of the region's steel industry. Representative of Pittsburgh's transformation, the Southside today is becoming a mini-hub for early-stage companies in the life sciences sector because organizations that are part of our support network - the universities and the hospitals - are nearby."
Pittsburgh also is known for its advances in robotics. Dubbed "Roboburgh" by The Wall Street Journal, the city is continually changing the face of robotics. World-class R&D, public-private partnerships, and top talent are among the resources making fruitful ground for these companies.
Rated a "Top 10 Up-and-Coming Tech City" by Forbes, the region has 1,600 information and communications technology (ICT) firms employing more than 28,000 people. It has invested $750 million of venture capital in emerging regional businesses over the last five years, becoming the nation's number-one fastest-growing region for venture capital, according to Moneytree.
The region has also shown steady growth in university R&D expenditures, with $765 million in spending in 2007 - a gain of 26 percent over a five-year period. The city is home to two of the largest research universities in the region, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.