Technology Runs On Fast Track In Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay region may have been built on a foundation of ranching, citrus, phosphate and cigars, but today it is skyrocketing into the fast lane of technology – and embracing the accompanying jobs and commerce.

Doug Pace, executive VP and COO of Bayshore Solutions in Tampa, says it's time to stop waiting for the Tampa Bay region to "arrive'' at technology milestones because we are already there.

"I get frustrated sometimes because, for some reason, we don't get the accolades that we should get,'' Pace says. "There is potential for extreme growth in the Tampa Bay area."

The global success of such companies as Tech Data of Clearwater, Jabil Circuit of St. Petersburg and Sykes Enterprises of Tampa prove his point, he says.

Also, consider the arrival of SRI International, which established its Marine Technology Program in St. Petersburg, Pace says.

"There's a reason they picked this area," he says. "Tampa is a great place, because it's so small, everybody kind of knows each other, and we all help each other grow, and achieve. Take us (Bayshore Solutions), for example, we partner with multiple firms in the Tampa Bay area that do slightly different things than we do."

Too much focus on the same niches, however, can be a problematic.

"Statewide, one thing I wish we did a better job of is that we do all seem to fight for the same clusters," he says. "We are all fighting for the same clusters, and I always wish we could all get together as a super region and discuss it -- you could be a medical and life science hub, you take creative tech and digital areas -- so that not just Tampa Bay would succeed, but Florida as a whole would succeed."

Emerging As A Destination

Lori Taylor, VP of marketing and operations for the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, suggests the region is "emerging as a destination for very exciting biotech and life sciences clusters."

"We expect growth in exciting areas like personalized medicine, clinical trials research, and other healthcare and technology fields that will benefit the entire region, job-wise,'' she says. "Pinellas County is already very strong in medical devices, defense and marine science technology. Sarasota County is strengthening its capacity in digital media and film. IT services of all kinds will continue to grow and figure prominently in the local tech industry."

Why does having a strong technology industry matter?

"Technology is not only a critical aspect to any business, but it has also become a way of life for most," Taylor says. "Technology enables productivity, efficiency and growth which, in turn, can fuel the economy. And as our recent survey shows, technology can drive job growth with skilled, high-paying positions."

Building A Mindset

The Florida High-Tech Corridor's mission is to make 23 Florida counties the Mecca for high tech.

USF, UCF and UF are an integral part of that plan, in addition to Florida Poly in Lakeland – and STAR Technology Enterprise Center in Largo.

Pace of Bayshore Solutions says his firms succeeds in attracting the best and the brightest, including several graduates of Ivy League universities.

"They choose to be in Tampa Bay for the lifestyle,'' Pace says. "They like it here, they like the people here. It's a different culture here, it's incredible.''

The only thing missing, he says, is a bold mindset fostered by a change in the narrative about the region.

"We are a great city, period. We are already here. We need to just realize that once we start having that swagger, everything's going to come together."

Mary Toothman, an independent journalist writing her way around the Tampa Bay region, lives in Tampa Palms with a boxer and two rescue Chihuahuas. She can often be found at a nearby Starbucks or Jazzercise, and goes nowhere without her iPhone. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Mary Toothman.

Mary Toothman is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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