Stay informed on the latest happenings for June 2015 with our business news in brief.
Defense-related businesses in Florida generate $73 billion in annual economic impact and 758,000 jobs, mostly in higher paying STEM-related fields, such as science and engineering. Earlier this year, Harris Corporation celebrated its new $130 million Harris Technology Center in Palm Bay. The 464,000-square-foot facility will serve as the company’s Florida innovation technology hub, with more than 1,400 engineers, scientists and staff.
On May 29, the company closed on its acquisition of Exelis, a McLean, Va.-based aerospace, defense, information and services company, estimated at $4.75 billion. Exelis shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favor of the merger. Exelis CEO and President David F. Melcher issued a statement in late May: “The vote today shows our shareholders understand that together, Harris and Exelis will be better positioned to compete more effectively and profitably in the global marketplace.”
The newly combined companies will generate $8 billion in annual revenue and employ 23,000 globally.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance had a goal of 1,200 new value-added jobs in Broward County for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2014. The group also had penciled in 20 projects and $50 million of capital investment. The actual recently released tallies: 21 projects and $267.8 million in capital investment, resulting in 1,412 newly created jobs. In addition, the primary economic development organization for Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County retained 5,320 jobs, far eclipsing its goal of 1,000.
The Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent metro area might never be confused with a sprawling metropolis. Yet, it is showing impressive signs of economic life — gaining 4,900 new jobs in April 2015, year over year. Also, the area’s unemployment rate decreased by 0.7 percentage point over the year to 5.0 percent. Gov. Rick Scott called the news further evidence that Florida is the most business-friendly state in the nation. Industries with the largest job gains in Pensacola: education, health services, leisure and hospitality, trade, transportation, utilities and financial activities.
The headline of the press release earlier this year read “Hitachi Data Systems Announces Intent to Acquire Pentaho to Deliver More Value from Big Data and the Internet of Things That Matter.” What was later learned: Orlando and its steadily developing tech industry were big winners, too.
That’s because when the HDS deal is finalized in June for between $500 and $600 million, there are plans to keep Pentaho’s headquarters in Orlando. In late April, spokesperson Katie Watson said, “HDS wants to retain Pentaho talent. …HDS does not anticipate any office changes.” Pentaho has a second U.S. location in San Francisco and four others in Europe.
The acquisition, the largest private big data acquisition transaction to date, was labeled a transformational event for the industry — one that would accelerate enterprise adoption of big data technologies and solutions through easier, faster deployment, leading to faster ROI.
With only a name change to “Pentaho, a Hitachi Data Systems company,” the brand is being maintained, as is the executive leadership. And the Orlando presence.
To infinity and beyond. Apparently, that’s the destination of the University of Central Florida student-led Limbitless Solutions, which formalized a partnership with UCF to create a hub of innovation that will blend engineering, art and medical science, and ultimately establish a worldwide resource for 3D printed biomedical solutions.
The Center for Applied Biomedical Additive Manufacturing, or CABAM, establishes a research facility and a marketplace to provide standardized, cost-effective, innovative, creative and functional biomedical solutions. The UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science and the College of Medicine will provide space, faculty mentors and expertise to CABAM. UCF’s Venture Accelerator and the Office of Technology Transfer will facilitate the process of taking new discoveries made at the center to commercial development.
In March, Limbitless Solutions saw a surge in requests for help when Robert Downey Jr., a.k.a. Iron Man, featured the group in a short video on his Facebook page. The video was watched more than 50 million times. The team has been flooded with requests from more than 40 countries by virtue of Facebook and global media attention.
The Florida Venture Forum recorded its largest pool of applicants for the Early Stage Capital Conference, ultimately selecting 19 Florida-based companies to present and two companies to exhibit at the May 14 event in St. Petersburg. Those companies featured some of the state’s best prospects for attracting equity financing. As a sampling, among the chosen: Blackdove, a Miami-based global motion art marketplace and distribution platform, enables Internet connected television and display screens to receive curated, customizable content streams of digital motion art. NeuroNet Learning of Gainesville has created a suite of educational software programs that facilitate learning through movement, an approach based on recent advances in neuroscience that inform how the brain creates and strengthens neural networks through experience and purposeful practice. Swarmify, located in Melbourne, has patent-pending technology that can break a video into pieces and then make real-time decisions to load the video from different source locations without the use of plugins, downloads or installs. And, Chui in Siesta Key offers an intelligent doorbell using facial recognition and proprietary technology to replace traditional doorbells and add mobile functionality.
Womenpreneurs! New name, new locations and new award. The Florida Institute of Technology has changed the name of its Women’s Business Center to weVENTURE. The new brand reflects a growing network of business centers in Central Florida, including the opening in downtown Orlando at the Canvs coworking space in March. Florida Tech received a five-year grant of $750,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration to open the Orlando center, which is modeled after its centers in Melbourne and Rockledge.
“We serve clients from all industry sectors from startup to growth. weVENTURE amplifies the economic impact of women entrepreneurs by helping them accelerate growth and job creation,” said weVENTURE’s Executive Director Beth Gitlin.
In May, weVENTURE was awarded the 2015 U.S. Small Business Administration Southeast Region Women’s Business Center of Excellence Award.
Florida companies have struggled to find the capital needed to accelerate operations. Since 2010, 70 percent of financing considered “major” has gone to three states (California, Massachusetts and New York). Also, while the 2014 MoneyTree Report cited that venture capitalists placed $862.5 million into 45 Florida funding rounds in 2014 — more than double the dollar total of 2013 and the strongest year since 2001 — Florida’s slice of the venture capital pie was less than 2 percent. However, the winds of change could be starting in the state (along with equity firms).
A total of 37 private equity firms were headquartered in Florida last year, 10 more than in 2010, according to Cassel Salpeter & Co., a Miami-based investment banking company. That might not seem like much, but the greater presence is a positive sign, because funds often prefer to be close to the companies in which they invest, cites Jim Cassel, co-founder of Cassel Salpeter. The upshot: More Florida businesses could be in line for capital and expertise they need to add jobs and grow, and remain in Florida.
Call it a leap of faith. Last year, Magic Leap, based in Dania Beach in Broward County, attracted $542 million, the third-largest financing round nationwide. The company creates augmented reality technology. Florida’s venture market is hoping for no such false perceptions.