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Florida the New High-Tech Frontier

Silicon Valley is synonymous with global technology, but could Florida be the next frontier? A new high-tech hub being developed outside Orlando will thrust the Sunshine State into the global advanced manufacturing industry, and promises high-skill jobs, new capital and the influence of a multibillion dollar industry.

Central Florida's newest tech endeavor is a result of the work of the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research, a public-private partnership between several Florida Universities and business groups. While the state already boasts more than 18,000 manufacturers, the consortium is focused on growing advanced manufacturing in Florida and developing emerging technologies in its Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center.

The research center will explore emerging technologies, such as smart sensors, an industry expected to be worth more than $154 billion by 2020. While there are huge financial opportunities for Florida in advanced manufacturing, the industry is already flourishing in the Sunshine State. In fact, four of the top five of Florida manufacturing sectors are considered advanced. The state features aerospace, medical equipment, semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing, which offer high-skill, high-wage jobs to Floridians.

According to a recent Florida TaxWatch analysis, Florida's manufacturing sector employs more than 317,000 workers, who are paid 100 percent more than the average annual wage of other private industries. However, advanced manufacturing industries boast a 228 percent higher salary than the average private sector workers' wages. Attracting industries that pay high wages, like advanced manufacturing, results in more economic activity in Florida, since the state economy heavily relies on consumption.

However, the economic impact of expanding advanced manufacturing extends beyond higher wages. Each dollar of manufactured goods results in $1.33 in activity from other sectors, improving the output of all Florida businesses. More advanced manufacturing could also be an opportunity to increase Florida's high-value exports, positioning the state for more global trade, especially important upon the opening of the Panama Canal expansion.

The research and economic development entities supporting the consortium and its research center is an impressive list, including the University of Florida, University of Central Florida, University of South Florida, Florida International University, Osceola County, the Florida High Tech Corridor, the State University System, the Orlando Economic Development Commission, Enterprise Florida, the Mist Center and Novati Technologies Inc. These high-powered resources have the relationships and capital investment commitments to ensure advanced manufacturing success in central Florida and around the state.

Florida's leaders continue to work to diversify the state's economy and position it to be a regional, national and global leader. The wise state investment to go along with the private and local investments in advanced manufacturing growth and development will help Florida capitalize on an important industry, providing needed jobs and revenue.

ICAMR will help to transform Florida's economy, placing our state at the front of the next generation of technological advancement, resulting in innumerable benefits to the Florida taxpayers and the Sunshine State economy.

Dominic M. Calabro is the President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

Featured in Florida Today.
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