Expect to see more of the ubiquitous Volkswagen logo again in and around Jacksonville. The Volkswagen Group of America is moving its import facility and Southeastern U.S. distribution center to the Port of Jacksonville, as announced earlier this year. Jacksonville Port Authority also committed nearly $18 million in incentives to the group, while the state agreed to provide $16 million for capital infrastructure improvements. In the 1960s, Jaxport was used as a Volkswagen import site before a plant in Pennsylvania took over those activities a decade later.
With the latest move, which Mayor Alvin Brown called “a vote of confidence,” a renovated plant and properties will be used to receive and process factory-new Volkswagen, Audi and Bentley vehicles. Volkswagen, Audi and Bentley expect to transport 100,000 cars within one year, and approximately 550,000 units in the next five years.
The big get bigger, even in a small place. Amazon has announced plans to double the operational capacity of its Ruskin warehouse in south Hillsborough County and add several hundred full-time jobs. Last September, in a lonely stretch of land just off Interstate 75, Amazon opened a $200 million, 1.1 million-square-foot fulfillment center, hiring more than 1,000 people. Space was reserved for future expansion, and, while an exact schedule hasn’t been announced, the plan is in motion with an eye on increasing product selection and delivery speeds.
Florida as the rocket launch capital of the world? That was the mission of Space Florida and Paradise Advertising, Digital & Entertainment as they unveiled their national multimedia promotional campaign in May. The initiative, called We Are Go, features the voice of Mike Rowe, host of CNN’s Somebody’s Gotta Do It and Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs. The goal: To raise awareness that America’s space program is alive and strong, and that Florida is the premier destination to experience rocket launches.
With an average of two launch events scheduled every month plus others coming, there are more rocket liftoffs in Florida than ever before, and state tourism entities are working to create launch viewing experiences. The campaign includes digital, social, broadcast, website and outlets such as National Public Radio, In Flight video, Facebook, Twitter and custom e-blasts, among others.
The University of Florida Research Foundation has presented Dr. Huabei Jiang, chief scientific advisor for a new medical device company Advanced fPAT Imaging Inc., with the Innovator 2014 award for developing a new breast imaging and disease staging technology in the fight against breast cancer. Jiang is a Pruitt Family Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
The new imaging system uses his Functional PhotoAcoustic Imaging, or “fPAT,” to create high-resolution maps within the breast without x-ray radiation, compression or injections. Early clinical trials demonstrated the ability to see into dense breast tissue and to distinguish healthy tissue from suspicious or unhealthy tissue. Clinical studies have shown that dense breast tissue can make it harder to see tumors using digital and 3D tomographic mammograms. The new fPAT provides high-quality images of the breast regardless of density.
Worldwide diagnostic imaging is a $32 billion sector in health care, expected to increase to $49 billion by 2020. fPAT Imaging Inc. is located in Tampa.
Medical City continues to expand near Orlando, and now it’s a gateway. With the opening of Gateway at Lake Nona in April, patients have convenient access at a single location to UCF Health and Florida Hospital’s physicians, imaging center, laboratory services and rehabilitation program. The facility is being touted as an “innovative and collaborative model of health care that delivers a range of new providers and services.” In addition, patients can take advantage of the academic strength of the UCF College of Medicine’s practice, where all doctors are faculty physicians at the medical school.
As a result of the partnership, Gateway Lake Nona is able to offer patients a seamless experience and give physicians increased opportunities to be connected with one another, according to Florida Hospital officials. The emphasis on collaboration extends into other areas, such as clinical data sharing, education and research. One distinction at Gateway is the physician’s workspace. Instead of working in their private offices, physicians will literally work together in an open space, which allows them to offer collaborative care.
In a $500 million cash deal in mid-May, Mednax, a Sunrise-based medical company, announced its entry into telemedicine with the acquisition of Virtual Radiologic Corp. based in Eden Prairie, Minn. Virtual Radiologic, also known as vRad, operates a network of more than 350 radiologists in 2,100 health-care facilities throughout the country and internationally. The company generates about $185 million in annual revenue. This marks the fourth acquisition this year for Mednax, which had $2.4 billion in revenue in 2014.
Advancements in digital cloud sharing is transforming the field of radiology, paving the way for more outsourcing and opportunities for efficiencies and cost-savings.
Downtown West Palm Beach, here we come. That was the theme in mid-April as four of the biggest names in real estate detailed why they’ve invested so heavily in West Palm Beach, and what they expect for the next decade. The Urban Land Institute and West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority hosted the event, which was presented by the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches.
The chief reasons cited by representatives of companies Related Urban, Navarro Lowrey and Cypress Realty of Florida, along with developer Jeff Greene: great vision and commendable leadership of city administrators, waterfront access, security, close proximity to Palm Beach International Airport, strong education options and mobility choices such as the upcoming All Aboard Florida.
Respective projects include Greene’s two 30-story towers, one with Class A office space and the other with a hotel and luxury condominiums; Related’s rising Hilton West Palm Beach Hotel and a planned retail project; Navarro’s mixed-use project on an old city hall site; and Cypress Realty’s large development along the waterfront on the city’s north end.
The clustering of tech talent is a prime driver of demand for office space in both large and small markets across the U.S. and Florida is squarely in the middle of the action. Tampa ranked 36th and Orlando 47th among the strongest markets, while Fort Lauderdale ranked 48th and Miami 50th, in the recent CBRE Research report Scoring Tech Talent, which assesses the top 50 U.S. markets based on their ability to attract and grow tech talent. Although tech talent comprises 3.4 percent (4.4 million workers) of the total U.S. workforce, the high-tech industry accounted for more major office leasing activity than any sector in both 2013 and 2014, the report revealed.
Business leaders from across the country gathered in Tampa in mid-May to discuss cybersecurity didn’t have far to look for related issues. Tampa is the No. 1 most hacked city nationwide, according to a study conducted by Enigma Software. Cybersecurity is an escalating risk to businesses around the world. Or, as Daimon Geopfert, a national leader of security and privacy consulting for McGladrey LLP, described, “It is no longer a matter of if, but when, a company will experience a data breach. Cyber attackers will attempt to make money from any viable opportunity that crosses their paths, no matter the size.” By the way, Orlando ranked No. 2 on the dubious list, and Miami was No. 13.
Why such a problem in Florida? There are numerous computer-illiterate retirees and many computer-dependent young people in the state, the study cited. Further proof of concern: Space Florida, the state’s aerospace and spaceport development authority, recently signed a three-year memorandum of understanding with the University of West Florida Center for Research and Economic Opportunity to further develop Florida’s cybersecurity technologies.