By Randy Berridge
April 12, 2009 – The Orlando Sentinel rightfully pointed out in its April 10 editorial ("Central Florida's economy must move beyond Mickey Mouse") that the "best long-term strategy for Central Florida's economy is to nurture up-and-coming high-wage industries."
As we look at ways to stimulate the economy through targeted incentives, we must also acknowledge that support of up-and-coming, entrepreneurial companies is key. In fact, new businesses account for more than one-third of job creation, according to a U.S. Census Bureau study funded by the Kauffman Foundation.
There is ample hard evidence to back this up, and we've seen it first-hand in Florida's High Tech Corridor, a 23-county region spanning Tampa Bay, Central Florida and the Space Coast. An innovative program here illustrates both the cold, hard numbers and the inspiring heights that support the theory that successful stimulus empowers entrepreneurs.
Over 12 years, the corridor council's matching grants research program has invested nearly $50 million in corridor researchers at the universities of Central Florida, South Florida and Florida. This is in partnership with corporations seeking technology breakthroughs. The program has realized more than $600 million in downstream impact, a stunning $12 return for every dollar invested. That's economic stimulus.
The downstream impact comes from contracts and revenue, corporate cash and in-kind investments, 140 patents and application-pending awards and meaningful job creation. At the same time, the program is also building a highly skilled corps of workers — graduate researchers who are ready to hit the ground running in the corporate world.
The impact is created by entrepreneurs like Convergent Engineering founder Neil Euliano, who invented an electronic pill that allows doctors to track the effectiveness of medications; and nScrypt founder Kenneth Church, who builds machinery that enables minuscule electronic components to be printed onto virtually any surface.
Each of these visionaries is contributing to our economy by providing cutting-edge, marketable goods and services, creating high-wage jobs and paying taxes that support their communities.
Putting stimulus money in the hands of innovators will pay off handsomely. These are the creative thinkers, the risk-takers, the go-to builders whose passionate pursuit of ideas have the power to transform our economy and our nation.
Randy Berridge is president of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council based in Heathrow.
April 12, 2009
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