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Business, Brains and Beauty

Business, Brains and Beauty

SIDEBAR/INSET
Sponsored by Info Tech

For a company with a 40+ year history in Gainesville, innovation isn’t a lofty goal; it’s essential to growth and survival. After all, it’s the exchange and promotion of exciting new ideas that led Info Tech to where they are today. There’s no riding on past successes — it’s a long-term vision for the future that matters. With roots as a consultancy started by two UF professors, Info Tech has grown to employ nearly 300 employees across two distinct businesses. Info Tech Consulting offers expert statistical and econometric litigation consulting services and Info Tech Systems is one of the country’s leading infrastructure construction software solution providers.

Info Tech’s sustained success is made possible by teams of forward-thinking employees. Whether it’s the annual hackathon or the ongoing Project LAUNCH, employees at all levels are encouraged to bring their ideas to the table and are given the support to make them thrive. As pioneers in offering flexible schedules, Info Tech enables employees to find the schedule that’s right for them and their families. Pair that flexibility with a modern workplace and it’s no wonder Info Tech is one of the most exciting companies in town.

Greater Gainesville is blessed with much natural beauty. Surrounded by prairies, springs, forests, and beautiful rivers, Gainesville’s beautiful natural environment is unmatched in Florida. The region offers recreational options that include paddling, diving, hiking, biking, and much more.

Gainesville also boasts a lot of brainpower. It has long been known as the state’s premier destination for higher education — a reputation that was only bolstered when Santa Fe College won the prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and reinforced again when the University of Florida entered U.S. News’ top ten public university rankings in 2018 (it is currently ranked #8).

But Gainesville isn’t just all brains and beauty. The region has built out a sophisticated and extensive infrastructure that supports businesses of varying sizes and industries and is becoming even better known for what’s happening off-campus and after graduation.

The best part about living, working, and playing in Gainesville is how these three critical elements – business, brains, and beauty – work together to create an “innovation ecosystem” that is driving new jobs, creating new businesses, and attracting industry leaders and talent to the region.

Gainesville’s Innovation Economy

It all starts with K-12 education. Through programs like the Alachua County Education Compact, the region’s business leaders work closely with educators to improve systemic outcomes in education by aligning efforts to prepare students for the workforce with career opportunities in emerging industries.

Thanks to the close cooperation between industry and educators, Alachua County’s high school graduates can plan for success whether they enter directly into the workforce, receive additional technical training, or look to four or more years of college. And if they are looking to attend college, two world-class institutions are right here.

Graduates of both UF and Santa Fe College have many opportunities, both in Greater Gainesville and well beyond. But Gainesville is giving its college graduates more and more reasons to “stay in the swamp.” Industries such as health care, biotechnology, high tech, manufacturing, logistics and agricultural science continue to grow in the region and are successfully challenging the city’s reputation as just a “college town.”

In fact, the job outlook is so strong in Gainesville that career placement firm Zippia just named the area Florida’s best place to start a career. Prospects are not only strong for entry-level positions, but these same industries are also looking to attract mid-level and senior managers to the area to help accelerate their plans for growth.

At the same time that these educational institutions are creating and nurturing tomorrow’s workforce, they are also helping create tomorrow businesses. Multi-million dollar businesses are formed in places such as the University of Florida’s many research institutes and centers. UF Innovate, the University’s top-ranked technology transfer office, helps commercialize the many ideas generated on campus, matching the technology with the entrepreneurial team or company that can best take the idea to market. The region’s many incubators (like the Sid Martin Incubator, named the nation’s best incubator in 2017) help these young startups accelerate growth.

While the area’s culture of innovation has been a defining characteristic of its economy, its businesses, and overall identity for the past two decades, Greater Gainesville’s trail of innovation was first blazed just over 50 years ago when Gatorade made the commercial leap from the lab of then-UF professor of renal medicine Dr. J. Robert Cade to retail shelves.

But the region has come a long way since then. Since the commercialization of Gatorade, UF has set the tone for entrepreneurship, strengthened by its prowess in garnering research funds – in 2016, UF brought in a record $791 million – as well its affinity for building partnerships that encourage the transfer of its research to market. UF Innovate | The Hub, which has incubated more than 60 companies resulting in more than 960 jobs and $67 million in private investment – recently completed a second phase that will accommodate an additional 45 companies, including a women-owned business center. The expansion was funded by an $8 million award from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

And UF is not alone in fostering businesses. The Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC) – led by Santa Fe College and the City of Gainesville – is currently incubating more than 20 companies, and has a long roster of successful alumni companies, including Optym, which completed its second major expansion in 2017. The City of Gainesville is working closely with UF and various technology providers to create groundbreaking municipal programs including autonomous vehicles, smart traffic signal management (complete with predictive mobile apps), new smart 911 systems, and a solar power generation system that positioned the city as a world leader in solar installed per capita as far back as 2012.

The result has been an ecosystem fueled by a steady proliferation of innovative businesses, state-of-the-art products and services, and world-class incubators to nurture the companies that produce them. The upward trajectory of opportunity in the Gainesville Metropolitan Area is demonstrated by its increasing gross domestic product, which in 2018 reached $12.9 billion, up nearly $1.5 billion since 2014.

Room to Grow

These high-growth industries tend to create virtuous cycles of employment. As businesses add mid- and senior-level talent, they’re able to bring on even more entry-level talent from both UF and Santa Fe College. As their workforce needs to diversify and expand, Gainesville area companies can draw from many other sources of talent, both home-grown (through sophisticated high school job readiness and university graduate programs) and transplanted (attracted to the region for its educational opportunities, great hospital network, natural beauty and growing industry segments like biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, high tech, logistics and agricultural sciences).

When these businesses, in turn, are ready to move out to their own offices, retail spaces, and labs, they can take their pick from dozens of development projects around the region and take advantage of the many streamlined services offered by the many municipalities in the area, like the City of Gainesville’s Department of Doing.

The availability of Class-A office space continues to grow, meeting a true need for high-end, state-of-the-art office facilities. Info Tech – a leader in fraud-detection software, computerized methods for detecting collusive behavior in sealed bid markets, and more – moved its operations and almost 250 employees into a new, 65,000-square-foot facility in Celebration Pointe, which has a plethora of additional office space in development, some of which will soon be claimed by companies including the tech company SharpSpring.

Innovation Square is also home to several of these new luxury office facilities, including 800 Second, which broke ground in late 2017, and Ingenuity, a 50,000-square-foot contemporary space that was fully leased nearly a year prior to completion, and others.

The 55-acre San Felasco Tech City development just outside of Gainesville will include a mix of workspace, living space and recreational areas. With over 42,000 square feet of office space already under agreement, the live/work/play multi-use development is designed to attract businesses to the site’s lower infrastructure costs and strong talent base, and residents to the inspirational setting that connects up with 7,200 acres of nature and 30 miles of bike paths.

This “live/work/play” theme can also be seen at Celebration Pointe, which in addition to its Class-A office space also features residences, a high-end hotel, movie theater, restaurants and retail shops, all built around a vibrant “main street” concept dubbed City Walk. Butler Town Center is bringing a similar vibe just to the other side of I-75 with a brand new Whole Foods, P.F. Chang’s and more retail and residences to come.

See Also

Key Industries & Employers

Greater Gainesville’s key industries include advanced logistics, advanced materials, agricultural sciences, biotechnology/life sciences and software/information technology.

In particular, a portfolio of businesses and talent resources comprise a robust biotechnology sector, which includes companies such as Ology (formerly Nanotherapeutics), AGTC, Brammer Bio, RTI Surgical, NovaBone, Captozyme, and others. Adding to the region’s ability to grow biotechnology businesses is access to a ready supply of relevant talent produced by sources such as the University of Florida, Santa Fe College, and CareerSource North Central Florida, which collaborate to tailor skills of graduates and trainees to meet the needs of local industry.

The region’s advanced manufacturing industry is anticipated to grow, as evidenced by several local companies’ projection of a collective $292 million in new capital investment (as noted in responses to a 2015 survey of regional manufacturers). Greater Gainesville’s advanced manufacturing industry ranks among Florida’s top third in size for manufacturing industry clusters.

The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce has created and nurtured councils in the five key industries to increase cohesion and provide businesses with industry-specific connections, resources and guidance.

Increasing in Notoriety, Quality of Life and Opportunity

Beyond the accolades for the University of Florida, Santa Fe College, the Sid Martin biotechnology incubator and others already discussed here, Greater Gainesville has received significant additional recognition. Much of this recognition speaks to the positives of living, working, playing and doing business in the Greater Gainesville area.

In the last five years, the region has received numerous rankings and recognitions, including being named the best city in Florida to start a career by Zippia (2018), one of the top six most affordable Florida Cities by Livability.com (2017), the top three college towns for a weekend getaway by U.S. News Travel (2016), the No. 2 Leading Metro for Economic and Job Growth (Area Development magazine, (2014), the best Florida City for Jobs and Careers (Forbes, 2012), and the No. 1 City on the Rise (NerdWallet, 2013).

Situated in the heart of a region known for its beautiful springs and other natural resources, Gainesville isn’t just a great place to work or grow your business; it’s a great place to live and play too.

Its thriving cultural scene — which includes a national ballet company, museums, a world-class symphony orchestra, and delectable, international dining options — serve as additional economic drivers for the region.

Between the city’s quaint downtown and historic districts, filled with Victorian charm and grandiose moss-covered oak trees, and the many sophisticated live/work/play developments bringing in high-end retail, grocery, and entertainment experiences just on the other side of campus, Greater Gainesville manages to bring out the best of both worlds, creating an experience that is certainly unique to Florida, if not the country.

Greater Gainesville is an ideal lifestyle destination for cutting-edge companies and smart people who thrive in a culturally rich, naturally beautiful environment that spawns innovation.

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