Guest blog post by U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John R. Fernandez
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe, and University of Florida President J. Bernard Machen, all gathered for the opening of the Florida Innovation Hub on January 11, 2012. I was proud to address the large crowd that was here to support the unveiling of a new tech business incubator that will help entrepreneurs, innovators, and start-up companies commercialize their research and bring it into the marketplace.
As Florida seeks to diversify beyond tourism and agriculture, and transition to a more innovation-based economy, the $8.2 million grant that the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) invested in the University of Florida in Gainesville to build this facility will promote a more diverse economy in the state. It will lead to the creation of new higher-skill, living-wage jobs that are vital to the prosperity of this region. This incubator is expected to create 300 jobs and generate $30 million in private investment.
America will always depend on its entrepreneurs to be the key drivers of innovation, but they don’t operate in a vacuum. They need an economic ecosystem to thrive in—one that includes such elements as wet labs, broadband, research parks and ready access to a population of qualified employees. The innovation hub is just such a place. It will provide entrepreneurs with the office space, laboratories and technical assistance they need to succeed. Just as important, it will provide them with a collaborative atmosphere in which their ideas can be tested, challenged and brought to fruition.
I was honored to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the incubator last June, and since that time, I’ve followed this project closely.
The Obama administration continues to invest in Florida to foster job creation. In September 2011, four Brevard County-based economic development organizations—Space Florida, the Space Coast Energy Consortium, Brevard Workforce, and the Technological Research and Development Association—were awarded $2.2 million from the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a joint effort underwritten by the Departments of Commerce and Labor and the U.S. Small Business Administration. That same month, the Igniting Innovation Cleantech Acceleration Network was awarded more than $1.1 million in federal funds from EDA and the Department of Energy to accelerate the commercialization of clean technology. This award, made under the federal i6 Green Challenge, focuses on Brevard and three neighboring counties in Florida. Additionally, EDA recently awarded more than $2.8 million to the City of Palm Bay, Florida, to make critical roadway infrastructure improvements needed to help a major local employer, the Harris Corporation, expand its operations. The project is expected to create 180 jobs and generate $100 million in private investment, according to city estimates.
These projects, along with others funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, are already a real economic impact that is being felt across Florida. We will continue to work with local leaders throughout Florida to make smart investments that will create the jobs and industries of the future.