Gainesville: Talent, Vibrancy Create Innovation Ecosystem

Learn how the Gainesville region has positioned itself as a global hub of talent, innovation and opportunity.

By
Bill Lewis
On Friday, December 30, 2016 - 18:02
Gainesville, FL

Thanks to an unmatched combination of assets including world-class research and the deep talent pool at Florida’s pre-eminent university, an entrepreneurial ecosystem that fosters job creation, communities that welcome business growth and a high quality of life, the Gainesville region has positioned itself as a global hub of talent, innovation and opportunity.

Companies discovering the region include USR Systems, an IT consulting services company that created 140 jobs in Gainesville. USR specializes in mobility, cloud enablement, digital transformation, business intelligence, data analytics and testing. The new positions support USR’s goal of building a delivery center in Gainesville.

“We are so excited to have found the right fit in Alachua County,” says USR Systems CEO Rajiv Akhaury. “A Gainesville delivery center will allow us to grow in ways we couldn’t before by easing the shift from staff augmentation to consulting services.”

Gainesville is part of the state’s High Tech Corridor, where many of Florida’s tech companies operate. The Gainesville region is home to a growing IT sector that has attracted companies including Mindtree, Mobiquity and others. The region also is rich in home-grown tech companies with a global market presence, including AGTC, RTI Surgical, SumTotal, Infotech and Optym.

Promoting Innovation

Local startups have the support of an entrepreneurial ecosystem that includes incubators such as the University of Florida’s Innovation Hub, which “creates collisions” among innovators in its state-of-the-art lab and office space. Since the building opened, startups have created 760 jobs. The ecosystem also includes the Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center at Santa Fe College, which provides incubator assistance, corporate training and other services, and the Gainesville Hacker House, a Victorian mansion where entrepreneurs immerse themselves in a culture of innovation.

The University of Florida, already an engine of growth in the region's economy, will have an even greater impact because of its Preeminence campaign. That campaign is expected to add more than 120 world-class professors and researchers. The university’s engineering school will benefit from a $50 million gift from Dr. Herbert Wertheim, a UF alumnus, philanthropist and entrepreneur who invented the UV coating for sunglasses. It is the lead gift in a $300 million fundraising campaign.

Sustainable Growth

Hawthorne, a city in the Greater Gainesville region, is the site of a game-changing development expected to attract advanced manufacturers who want to be close to rail service and to the resources of the University of Florida. Those businesses are expected to create anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 jobs over time. The facilities will be designed to enhance their environmental sustainability, says Mayor Matthew Surrency, who notes the project will stimulate the economy.

“This will have a huge impact on our local economy. First and foremost local residents will now be able to have the opportunity for jobs closer to home. Spending less time on the road and less on transportation will be a benefit financially and to the quality of life in our community,” says Surrency.

The project will have a ripple effect throughout the economy, he says.

“Supporting businesses like the restaurants and other service industries will have more local customers. Whether the employees are from Hawthorne or surrounding areas everyone has to eat and we hope to see them all in our grocery stores and our restaurants. We also hope to see many more new businesses startup with the increase in demand,” says Surrency.

The project will grow the tax base and allow the city provide more services and ease the financial burden on current residents, he says.

“Hawthorne will always be the small town surrounded by a vast wilderness that we call a ‘sportsman’s paradise.’ The only thing changing will be the economic opportunity and pursuit of happiness our citizens will have to live the American Dream,” says Surrency.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Lewis is an award-winning business journalist whose work has appeared in publications across the United States.