Tampa Bay – A New Tech Hub

Since the Great Recession that officially began in 2007 and lasted until June 2009, which had a significant impact on Florida’s economy, the metropolitan area of Tampa has expanded its employment by 24 percent, according to the Tampa Bay Online. The city has been ranked as number one in the state and number four in the country in regards to employment growth. Part of this success is a result of tech companies’ investments in the area.

The state of Florida is ranked as the best state for business climate, and second best state in regards to infrastructure in the United States, according to floridatrend.com. The website also indicates that Florida is a home to more than 300 international company headquarters of which 17 are included on the Fortune 500. Nevertheless, the situation has not always been this way.

“Historically, the state of Florida was known as the retiree state due to its beautiful weather and laid back attitude. We are also known as the Spring Break state, for our beautiful beaches and sunny days no matter when your Spring Break occurs,” said an instructor of Computer Science at Saint Leo University, Eva Groudas.

Even though the state used to be associated only with vacationers and retirement, now the situation is changing as some people decide to settle in Florida.

“Today, many of those families of the retirees and vacationers have decided to stay here. We see our Florida population continue to grow as more come to visit and see the many advantages to our state, especially our no State income tax,” added Groudas.

The constant transition of people had a beneficial impact on Florida, as the state did not only grow in population but also acquired more highly educated professionals. In 1910, the state’s population was equal to 1 million people, which has grown to 10 million by 1980 and is now equal to 20.7 million according to floridatrend.com.

“Today, Florida’s colleges and universities continue to grow, excel, and raise their bar on the quality of the education they provide. Saint Leo University, for example, continues to excel and raise the bar on education through introducing the latest LMS platforms such as D2L but also by using and engaging students with the latest technologies available from training simulation based environments to live classroom polling, interactive gaming strategies, and hands-on learning” said Groudas.

According to the Florida Population Report presented by Cushman & Wakefield in November of 2016, Florida’s population grew by more than 1000 people a day and jobs were number one reason why people decided to stay in Florida.

“What attracts people to certain cities is the cost of living, income, jobs, colleges, schools, and quality of life. Tampa Bay, Orlando, and Miami have all of that,” said Groudas.

Nevertheless, the jobs would not exist if companies and entrepreneurs did not decide to start their businesses here.

“Big companies realize that without snow days, their companies can run more days a year and more hours in a day. They realize the labor in Florida is less expensive than other states, and it’s an “at-will” employment state. Additionally the quality of employees is wonderful due to the higher quality of education they are receiving. Thus more and more business are opening their doors in Florida,” added Groudas.

Tech companies, in particular, have a great impact on the development. Floridatrend.com indicates that Florida is the third state in the U.S. for high-tech businesses, third among states for high-tech exports, number four state for high-tech employment, and fifth fastest-growing state for tech jobs.

Tampa Bay itself is a home for headquarters of big tech companies, such as Tech Data or the cybersecurity offices of PwC. Nevertheless, many more small business are located in the area, and programs, such as the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator supported by the University of South Florida Research Foundation, help these small businesses grow.

“What differentiates Tampa from Miami is that it is very diverse, and this is what drives the area,” said Groudas, who explains Tampa’s advantage by an analogy to ‘why somebody’s grass is greener.’

“The people who have the greenest grass, are the people who have the most diverse grass and not a single type of grass,” added Groudas.

The analogy indicates that as one type of grass dies, the other type flourishes. Because the process is cyclic, in general, the grass always remains green even though not all of its types are equally strong throughout a year.

“The ones that are the most diverse will always survive. That’s what gives Tampa its biggest advantage,” said Groudas referring to the diversity of people who live in the Tampa Bay Area.  

Just like Floridians, Saint Leo University and its community, benefits from the development of the area as the university’s location is in close proximity of the city of Tampa and it continues to grow its connections with local businesses.

“Our Saint Leo University campus location is so close to Tampa, but we also get to benefit from the rural rolling hill side of Florida that many don’t know about,” added Groudas.

Connecting with the local businesses might be a key to making the area more appealing for students. By working with companies that are connected with the university, the future professionals might not only gain the necessary experience, but also many of them might decide to stay with the companies and thereby support the local economy, eventually.

Being accredited by the National Security Agency as a center for cybersecurity studies has already given Saint Leo University a great opportunity to support the US country. Local connections with businesses like PwC are just another step in making that happen on the local level.

“Saint Leo University worldwide is able to reach out and educate our Veterans, Active Duty, our future Educators, and our many students to help our own country become stronger and secure in technology and in many fields. We also strive to help our international students gain the latest knowledge to secure and protect their countries’ technology,” said Groudas.

The technological development of the Tampa Bay Area, in particular, might be a chance for Saint Leo University to further engage in the development of Florida. Connecting with the local companies could be a way in which the school supports the local economy by providing the region with qualified workers.

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