Week of January 27, 2003
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The Sunshine State's High-Tech Corridor:
in Central Florida
by RON STARNER, Director of Publications,
MELBOURNE, Fla. At Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems in Melbourne, Fla. military strategists wage America's next war in cyberspace.
At its Airborne Ground Surveillance & Battle Management Systems offices on West NASA Boulevard, Northrop Grumman recently unveiled its crown jewel of the digital age: the Cyber Warfare Integration Network or CWIN.
The multi-chamber facility looks like something right out of a Hollywood set, perhaps a Tom Clancy novel made into a movie, but the real space exists for one reason: to one day help the American military win a real war.
The ultra-modern, multimillion-dollar facility also represents something else for Florida's Space Coast: confirmation that Central Florida is no longer just the realm of Mickey Mouse and the Daytona 500. It's now the home of an industry cluster not paralleled anywhere else in America.
That cluster? Modeling, simulation and training.
With more than 150 companies employing about 5,000 workers and with US$3.5 billion in annual sales, Central Florida's modeling, training and simulation cluster equips soldiers, police officers, firefighters and pilots for virtually every conceivable challenge they may face.
From Northrop Grumman to Boeing to Lockheed Martin and many other high-tech firms stretching from coast to coast, the region known as Florida's High-Tech Corridor bursts with new corporate facilities designed for the next generation.
HTC Produces Annual
The study by Orlando-based Real Estate Research Consultants showed that the average high-tech job in the Corridor pays $52,400 a year, compared with just $25,600 for tourism jobs.
Do the math and it's easy to see why economic developers throughout the Sunshine State want more workers wearing white lab coats, not just more workers changing white sheets and tablecloths.
"As a result of our targeted, sustained effort to recruit and retain high-skilled, high-wage workers, Florida now ranks fifth in the nation in the number of high-tech jobs," Gov. Jeb Bush said.
At Boeing, rocket scientists are assembling a Delta IV vehicle that will carry the next-generation satellites into space. At i.d.e.a.s., former Disney employees are, in their words, "creating a story" that will help train America's next generation of sailors.
Go behind the backdrop of the Indiana Jones sets and Catastrophe Canyon at the Disney theme park and you'll see a world that most people see only in the movies.
Building Better Military i.d.e.a.s.Company founder Bob Allen, who goes by the title of "CEO and Chief Storytelling Officer," is drawing upon his 25 years of experience with Disney in creative entertainment and theme show development to spearhead an ambitious effort called "Battle Stations."
The "idea" of i.d.e.a.s. is simple: create an ultra-realistic set that provides every test imaginable of a young Navy recruit's seaworthiness and battle-readiness. If the recruit passes Battle Stations, he graduates to become a sailor.
The set itself is being built on the coast of Virginia, but the story behind the set is being told at the i.d.e.a.s compound inside a Disney amusement park.
It used to be that Hollywood filmmakers went to the Pentagon seeking advice on how to make a war movie. Now the Pentagon comes knocking on Disney's door for guidance on how to fight a war.
Growth Goes Beyond Mickey and the MilitaryIt's not all military-speak in the Land of the Mouse, however. There are plenty of companies building high-tech plants for other industries of the mind.
In Orlando, GlobeNet is building an $8.2-million headquarters for its online trading service; U.S. Nutraceuticals is investing $7 million into an herb extraction plant; and Mitsubishi Power Systems is spending $4 million on its new Western Hemisphere corporate headquarters.
At Orlando Central Park Florida's largest developed business park new facilities are cropping up for Lockheed Martin, T&G Constructors and Northwest Publishing. And at nearby Central Florida Research Park, the University of Central Florida Technology Incubator is busy developing the high-tech research firms of the future.
The Research Park is home to $1.5 billion a year in defense contract work, all out of a single building in the development, said Joe Wallace, the park's executive director. "A good indicator of our strength is the fact that we did not lose one single job because of the technology bust, either pre- or post-9/11," said Wallace.
Today, the Research Park is about 60 percent full at 3.1 million sq. ft. (287,990 sq. m.) and will peak at 5.6 million sq. ft. (520,240 sq. m.), noted Wallace. "Our park has grown from six buildings to 48 buildings in 15 years. We now have 90 companies and 9,000 workers in the park."
CA Adding 400 Tech Jobs in TampaIn Tampa, Computer Associates International is investing $6 million to build a 55,000-sq.-ft. (5,110-sq.-m.) complex that will create 400 high-tech jobs for Hillsborough County. Set for full occupancy this April, the plant will serve as CA's national client interaction center.
"This is a win for Florida because of the jobs we are bringing to the area," said Gary Quinn, executive vice president of sales and field operations for CA. "It is a win for CA because of the talent pool we are going to be able to tap into, and a win for our employees who will enjoy the excellent quality of life offered by Hillsborough County. It's also a big win for CA customers, who will experience an even higher level of technical support services thanks to the state-of-the-art facility we are creating for them."
The company chose Tampa over competing locations in Plano, Texas; Omaha, Neb.; Marietta, Ga.; and several cities in Canada.
For more information on the Florida High-Tech Corridor, log onto www.floridahightech.com.
©2003 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.