Innovation is New Driving Force in Central Florida’s Economy

By: Randy Berridge

Say “Florida” and images of a famous mouse and citrus come to mind. While it’s true that tourism and agriculture are responsible for more than 2 million jobs in Florida, innovation is quickly becoming a key driver in Florida’s economy.

Florida’s growing high tech industries have been getting a boost from new local projects promising a more diverse economy and jobs. Florida’s High Tech Corridor Council is proud to partner with Osceola County, the University of Central Florida (UCF), University of South Florida, University of Florida and Florida International University in the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR). The organization will research and manufacture sensor and sensor-related technology.

Sensors are rapidly becoming central to everything from highly sophisticated technologies to numerous gadgets consumers rely on to manage, assist and streamline their lives.  A partnership between UCF, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others will research possibilities for sensors in fibers, such as smart clothing that can track heart levels, change color for camouflage and more.  Onlookers and partners see a great potential in ICAMR.

Another project that holds great promise is Lake Nona’s Medical City.  From medical education to biomedical science and research to state-of-the-art hospitals for children and veterans, Medical City is a star on our horizon.  In fact, it is home to a unique study known as the Lake Nona Life Project.  This long-term study of community health and wellness partners the Lake Nona Institute and Johnson & Johnson Health & Wellness Solutions Inc.

A recent Kauffman Foundation report ranked metro Orlando fourth in the nation among 40 large metros for density of high-growth, health-related companies.  Startups in health seem to be growing at a fast pace and I’d like to think Medical City has something to do with that.

As a Florida Chamber Foundation trustee, I am also excited about another plan for innovation around the state – Florida 2030.  The Florida 2030 project seeks to identify strong areas of growth for the state by way of ongoing research engaging business and community leaders in each of our 67 counties.  Everyone has a say in the future of our economy and the Florida Chamber Foundation is listening.

This is an exciting time for Florida.  There are many opportunities for other industries to join the ranks of tourism and agriculture and we will need them all for a strong economy.  It’s time we tell the world the whole story about Florida.

Randy Berridge is President of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and Florida Chamber Foundation Trustee