Florida High Tech Corridor Celebrates New Leadership Appointments

February 13 | news

New Chief Strategy Officer and Program Director Will Elevate 27-Year-Old University-Backed Initiative to Drive Regional Innovation

ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 13, 2023) – The Florida High Tech Corridor (The Corridor) appointed Amy Beaird, Ph.D., to chief strategy officer and welcomed Steve “Snak” Nakagawa as Cenfluence program director. They will support The Corridor’s continued evolution as a driver of regional innovation across 23 counties anchored by the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida.

Amy Beaird, Ph.D., is the nonprofit’s first chief strategy officer, appointed to the role after serving for two years as director of Cenfluence, an initiative of The Corridor and Orange County Government launched in 2021 to strengthen Central Florida’s economy and spur job creation in technology and technology-enabled industries.

Although her perspective is broadening, Beaird will remain involved with Cenfluence as she integrates efforts across all The Corridor’s programs. As chief strategy officer, her responsibilities now also include:

  • Development and execution of a strategic plan;
  • Driving collaboration with regional stakeholders, such as academic institutions, industry partners and entrepreneurial support organizations; and,
  • Identification and pursuit of new opportunities for growth and impact.

As well, Beaird will continue leading The Corridor’s pursuit of federally funded grant programs, building upon work to secure and execute the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovation Research Catalyst and Federal and State Technology Partnership Program programs, and the Department of Energy’s EnergyTech University Prize regional competition. She is currently leading The Corridor’s joint proposal with Miami-Dade County to the National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines initiative, which could attract up to $160 million to establish a Coastal Resilience Engine for Sustainable Transformation in Florida.

Prior to joining The Corridor, Beaird managed a consultancy to help minority-led tech startups secure more than $3 million. She has also advised innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem programs on strategy and grant submission, supporting applications for more than $15 million. Beaird is a first-generation college student with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of South Carolina and a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Florida.

“With her tremendous vision, tireless tenacity and steadfast commitment these last two years, Amy has built not only an incredibly strong foundation for Cenfluence and its clusters, but also has grown the amazingly strong and passionate Cenfluence team that makes things happen every day,” said CEO Paul Sohl. “Becoming The Corridor’s chief strategy officer is the perfect fit for her talents and her continued leadership growth moving forward.”

Steve “Snak” Nakagawa, USN Captain (ret), is joining The Corridor as program director for Cenfluence, stepping in to lead the team responsible for identifying over $4 million in tailored new business opportunities and helping Cluster Members secure more than $1.4 million last year alone.

Nakagawa’s 28 years of service for the U.S. Navy includes six overseas deployments as a naval flight officer and more than a decade of experience leading acquisition programs. As chief executive and commanding officer of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division – the Navy’s principal warfare center acquiring and managing modeling, simulation and training (MS&T) systems – he led a team of more than 1,000 military and government civilian personnel responsible for contractual actions and operating expenses exceeding $1 billion annually. In this role, Nakagawa also served as commanding officer of Naval Support Activity Orlando, the home of “Team Orlando” and the world’s epicenter of MS&T.

Nakagawa is no stranger to The Corridor, having served in 2014-2015 as a director of workforce programs. He has also served in various leadership positions in the defense industry, including his current role as director of “Live, Virtual & Constructive” Simulation Programs for Collins Aerospace, in which he will remain while dually supporting Cenfluence.

Nakagawa was selected as the 2015 Orange County Distinguished Asian-American for his service to country and community. He has served on over 20 boards and councils in Central Florida, and has attended various academic and executive leadership programs at the University of Southern California, the University of Tennessee Space Institute, the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, Defense Acquisition University and Leadership Orlando.

“Snak has already contributed tremendously to the growth of our innovation ecosystem and I’m so grateful for his decision to rejoin The Corridor with our Cenfluence program,” said Sohl. “His deep knowledge and experience as a leader in Central Florida’s internationally recognized MS&T industry cluster will be an asset as he leads our efforts to energize the region’s other emerging clusters.”

About the Florida High Tech Corridor (The Corridor)
An economic development initiative of three research universities – the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida – The Corridor converges and catalyzes the capacity of high tech, innovation and bright minds across a 23-county region to generate a global ripple effect that advances the lives of people in the communities it serves. Powered by an ethos of collaboration, The Corridor aligns opportunities and resources in academia, industry and economic development to unleash the region’s exponential potential.

Connect with The Corridor on LinkedIn and Twitter. Learn more at www.floridahightech.com.