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Florida: An In-Depth Look at the Southern States

The Southern states are thriving, thanks to entrepreneurs with innovative high-tech ideas, strong public and private investment, and enthusiastic support from state and local governments.

Southern Tech Sites 2007
Cyberstates 2007: A Complete State-By-State Review of the High Technology Industry named the Sunshine State the fourth-largest and second-fastest growing state by tech industry employment. Sectors experiencing strong job growth include tech manufacturing - largely driven by defense electronics - as well as various tech services categories such as engineering services, computer systems design and related services, and Internet services. The average tech industry wage in Florida pays 70 percent more than the average wage of Florida's private sector. The report counted 21,000 high-tech establishments in 2005, clinching the list's third place.

Florida hopes to boost its innovation economy with the Florida Capital Formation Act, which will direct Venture Capital funds to high-tech startups and support university research commercialization. The bill, which took effect in early July, calls for $29.5 million to be invested directly in seed and early-stage venture funds to provide capital to early-stage startup businesses.

"The founders of the company graduated from USF [University of South Florida] and UCF [University of Central Florida]. The universities have a good reputation and provide an excellent resource of knowledge and talent. The technology community is robust and growing."

Rob Morris, Director of Marketing and Customer Relations,
Ocean Optics, Inc.
Dunedin, Florida
Florida hosts nearly 20,000 IT companies staffed by about 250,000 employees. Specific IT fields include photonics/optics, modeling, simulation and training, nanotechnology, and materials science.

The software and computer systems design cluster covers a diverse cadre of industries such as financial services, gaming and entertainment, law enforcement, defense and homeland security, modeling and simulation, and commercial aviation. From 2000 to 2005, $1 billion worth of venture capital funds were invested in software-related ventures. Besides funding, high-tech industries are supported by high-profile educational institutions dedicated to research, such as the College of Optics and Photonics/Center for Research and Education in Optics at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University in Tallahassee, which Enterprise Florida touts as "the only facility of its kind in the United States and the largest, high-powered magnet laboratory in the world." Computer hardware also garners accolades for the state. Computer products, microelectronics, and precision device companies have clinched nearly 1,500 utility patents between 2000 and 2004, with venture capital infusion in this sector between 2000 and 2005 reaching $512 million.

Besides catering to America's IT needs, Florida has been recognized as the country's third-largest exporter of locally made high-tech products - translating to $11 billion of goods per year. About 300 foreign IT and multimedia firms operate in the state. For companies that need to reach out and contact someone, Florida is a telecommunications gateway, and host to one of only five tier-1 network access points in the country.

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