Florida must place pieces together to build an innovative, competitive jobs marketplace

 

By Jeremy Ring

Imagine driving on US 101 between San Francisco and San Jose, Calif. As you're driving, your eyes spot Google off to the right, Facebook and Apple to the left. There's Yahoo and there's Ebay. You continue toward Cisco and National Semiconductor. Just beyond those sit the campuses of Oracle, Intel and Hewlett Packard. Off to the side are huge satellite campuses of IBM and Microsoft.

In Palo Alto, the midway point between the two cities is Stanford University, home of the Stanford Research Institute, arguably the world's greatest collection of scientists and innovators.

In this stretch, tens of thousands of high-tech workers are shaping how the world communicates, locates information, shops online for products and services, develops life-saving drugs and medical devices, and invents new energy saving innovations. The very ways we manage our daily routines are all being seeded in this one 30-mile stretch called Silicon Valley.

Now let's take a tour of Florida by driving down I-95 or the Florida Turnpike, from Palm Beach County to Miami-Dade County. What you'll witness are large, gated communities with tracts of similar homes, all built in the past 25 years. You'll see dozens of small companies selling any number of insurance products. You'll see countless offices of attorneys, accountants and bail bondsmen. Spend just a few minutes and off to the right and left are seemingly endless supplies of pill mills. World-renown universities overflowing with engineers developing paradigm shifting disruptive technologies are nowhere in sight. Go to a Starbucks and listen in on students discussing their new discovery that will shape the world; can't seem to find it.

While this juxtaposition may be an exaggeration, it's unfortunately not far off in its contrast. While there are examples of successes in Florida, they're more the exception than the norm. Why is this? The answer is simple, but the change is very complex. If Florida is to ever compete in the 21st century, it must begin to consider all of the parts that go into developing a technology ecosystem. Where does it begin?

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