By Andrew Duffell
President & CEO, Research Park at Florida Atlantic University
As reported last month in the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the first six months of 2014 saw more tech job creation than all of 2013, and this success isn’t just a number. This number translates to additional high-wage jobs, economic development and strong entrepreneurial spirit for the Sunshine State. Groups like Enterprise Florida and the Florida Chamber have been championing this effort for more than a decade. We must now work to continue this momentum so our state can continue to move in the right direction.
Florida’s business-friendly climate allows diverse tech companies a chance to thrive in a pro-jobs environment. In fact, the 2014 Inc. 5000 list, which profiles the fastest growing private companies in the U.S., contains more than 300 Florida businesses- many of which are tech companies. Our state must keep recruiting companies like Fortinet, based in Plantation, and foster the entrepreneurial spirit in startups such as Modernizing Medicine, a cloud-based electronic medical records company in the Research Park at Florida Atlantic University.
Currently, Florida imports more talent than it develops, and with businesses in the tech-sector growing at a faster pace than before, we must work hard to be able to meet Florida’s demand by ensuring our students receive the right kind of critical-thinking education and training that will make students career-ready upon graduation. We must also continue our efforts to fuel passions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related careers. Otherwise, the momentum we’ve created might be lost. Initiatives, such as the Targeted Educational Attainment (TEAm) program between Florida Atlantic University (FAU), Palm Beach State College (PBSC) and Broward College (BC), are just one way to secure Florida’s tech job future. The TEAm initiative is part of an ambitious effort to align university and college degrees with the state’s future workforce needs. In this program students are recruited to join STEM fields in high school, and then study at PBSC or BC and transfer seamlessly to FAU. Our colleges and universities are pulling large grants, but we still have work to do. Even as Florida passes New York as the third most populous state, we rank No. 39 in federal research funding. We have the people, we have the infrastructure and we have the creativity so now it’s time to perform if we want to continue to see record tech job creation.