High technology grows amid tourism and agriculture

Central Florida is known for oranges, beaches, sunshine, palm trees, dolphins, manatees, pelicans, sugarcane, Busch Gardens, Cape Canaveral, Disneyworld, college sports and so much more.

Now, add one more attraction: almost 250,000 high technology jobs, making this one of the top high tech hubs in the nation.

The Florida High Tech Corridor Council is out with its 2014 annual report, and the news is good. The council identifies 243,772 Central Florida high tech jobs in about 20,000 companies in fields from aerospace to photonics with average annual salaries above $68,000.

Florida has more high technology opportunities than many other states. A 2012 report found the number of high tech job openings in the 23-county Florida High Tech Corridor was larger than in the more well-known Research Triangle of North Carolina and the Route 128 Corridor in Massachusetts.

Admittedly, these Florida jobs stretch across a wide area from the Gulf Coast to the Space Coast and up to Gainesville. But the council notes that Florida’s scattered high tech industry clusters are growing year by year.

Industry clusters are important to a state’s future, as explained by Professor Michael Porter of Harvard. Developing clusters increases productivity in those industries, drives innovation and stimulates new business in the field. Business clusters give a region a competitive advantage over other areas in the U.S. and the world.

So, the forecast for high tech industry in Florida is to add thousands more jobs in the years ahead.

Florida’s High Tech Corridor includes:

• Agritechnology

• Aviation and Aerospace

• Digital Media/Interactive Entertainment

• Financial Services

• Information Technology

• Life Sciences/Medical Technologies

• Microelectronics/Nanotechnology

• Modeling, Simulation and Training

• Optics and Photonics

• Sustainable Energy

Begun in 1996, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council is an initiative of the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida, supporting research, marketing, workforce and entrepreneurship in high tech businesses. It involves 25 local economic development organizations and 14 community colleges.

The council promotes research among universities and industry, provides grants to emerging technologies and supports start-ups and growing businesses. The council gives educators experience with various high tech technologies. It supports college degree and certificate programs to develop workers in high tech fields.

This year the council profiles 12 technology pioneers in its Faces of Technology feature, in fields from unmanned aircraft to simulation to biopharmaceuticals and 3-D imaging.

Its 2014 Faces of Technology:

Amir Rubin is on a quest to create a 3-D model of every place on earth. Extending the supply of diminishing deposits of Florida phosphate rock used for fertilizer is the work of chemist Joseph Megy. Kevan Main is enhancing techniques to increase the supply of fish for human consumption. Developing software and new technology for government agencies is the role of Charles Engelke.

Barb Eppler is researching countermeasures for biological and radiological threats.

Alexandre Fong is using photonics, or light, for diagnostics and testing. Donald Ariel combines electrical engineering and logistics to provide training and simulation for far-flung clients. Peter Mouton uses 3-D stereology to understand diseases and treatments.

Cheryl Baker works to protect healthy tissue from cancer radiation treatment. Thomas Rambo develops unmanned aircraft to perform difficult tasks efficiently and safely. Juan Vaquerizo creates advanced simulation technology for government and commercial clients. David Sykes innovates products such as cooling equipment for temperatures reaching 900 degrees on Venus.

For information, check out the annual Florida high tech corridor guide, called florida.HIGH.TECH 2014. The publication shows exciting promise for Central Florida.

For young people, the future is not just in tourism, hospitality and service jobs. For people willing to pursue science, engineering, technology and math, high paying jobs are available.

For students looking beyond the growing health care field, other industries in Central Florida are hard at work creating the next generation of products and services that will be in demand around the world.

— Joseph Santangelo is a former reporter for the Bergen Record newspaper in New Jersey. He has written for magazines in Connecticut and Massachusetts and worked in business, government and community service. He writes from Clearwater.

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