A conversation with. John Adams President and CEO of Enterprise Florida
"Florida's manufacturers are diversified. They include robotics, gaming, simulation, marine sciences, aviation, defense, homeland security and medical equipment."
A. The Burnham Institute in Orange County is establishing a major biomedical research facility in Orlando; Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies chose Port St. Lucie for its Florida headquarters, and SRI International's new marine technology research facility in St. Petersburg will concentrate on R&D related to ocean science, the maritime industry and port security. The Florida Innovation Incentive Fund was used to recruit those companies. Scripps Florida's state-of-the-art biomedical research institute, currently located in Jupiter, on the campus of Florida Atlantic University, has over 170 employees and more than 30 R&D collaborations underway. We are seeing more connections between the life sciences and the private sector, with more interaction with our university systems. The Cyberstates 2006 report recently ranked us fourth in the nation for high-tech employment.
Q. What other areas can you pinpoint for future developments?
A. Of course, we have an established track record in the space industry. Lockheed Martin's CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle) project at the Kennedy Space Center will be a huge multiplier. We hope to see 300 to 400 jobs initially; and ultimately 2,500 to 3,000 workers at KSC by 2008 and likely through 2019. (The refurbished Apollo facility will house final assembly and integration of the Orion Spacecraft.) There is continual growth in aviation and aerospace, and statewide, we have even seen some growth in manufacturing. We have about 16,000 manufacturers and jobs are up. Financial services is also strong across the state, in Miami, Jacksonville, Tampa-St. Petersburg, and Orlando. Fidelity Investments' new customer contact center in Jacksonville projects hiring 1,200 employees at a $27 million capital investment. Corporate headquarters are so critical to our growth that they have a special designation to make them eligible for enhanced incentives. Nokia's Latin American headquarters is bringing 100 jobs and a $3.6 million investment into Miami; Darden Restaurants is undergoing a massive expansion of 1,000 jobs in Orlando; and Office Depot is making a $210 million capital investment with its headquarters in Palm Beach County
Q. What are some incentives to establish a company in Florida?
A. The $20 million 21st Century World Class Scholars Program provides matching funds to attract principal researchers who have high academic credentials and demonstrated competence to Florida's research universities or centers. The Centers of Excellence Program promotes research and transfers discoveries to commercial sectors. Centers focus on biomolecular identification and targeted therapeutics at University of South Florida; ocean energy technology and biomedical and marine biotechnology at Florida Atlantic University; sustainable energy at University of Florida; photonics at University of Central Florida; nano-bio sensors at the University of Florida; advanced materials at Florida State University; and regenerative health biotechnology at University of Florida. We are making commitments to our university research communities and linking them to our private-sector companies. Our $60 million investment over the last few years shows our commitment to real public-private cooperation.
Q. Is manufacturing dominated by a specific sector?
A. Florida's manufacturers are diversified. They include robotics, gaming, simulation, marine sciences, aviation, defense, homeland security and medical equipment. Our manufacturers don't get much attention because there are only a handful of them with over 500 employees, but the ones with 20, 50, or 150 employees are doing tremendously. A small company that makes filters for the space shuttle may not need a lot of employees, but they can be a multimillion-dollar operation. We provide an underlying supplier network.
Q. Where are the goods going?
A. We are increasing our exports, and went over $100 billion in exports last year. Brazil is our number one trading partner, and Central America, Europe and Asia are active as well. Pacific Rim countries are up more than any area.
Q. Do you offer incentives?
A. We want to provide a climate of competitiveness, a home for innovation. In 2006, we instituted a sales tax exemption for manufacturing machinery and equipment and a sales tax exemption for R&D machinery and equipment. As all states, we have challenges to overcome, but we have a quality work force and infrastructure in place.
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