Saturday, July 21, 2018
Business

MIT spinoff Draper is back with a new St. Petersburg facility to meet SOCom needs

Draper's back.

After pulling up earlier stakes on both sides of Tampa Bay, the MIT spinoff on Wednesday debuted its new "rapid prototyping center" in north St. Petersburg with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours for area economic development leaders, Congressman David Jolly and, most of all, Jimmy "Hondo" Geurts.

Geurts is the Acquisition Executive for U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCom) at MacDill Air Force Base. That critical job recently keeps Geurts pushing deeper into this area's private sector in search of the best and brightest ways to equip his special forces.

SOCom is the chief client of Draper's new 20,000-square-foot facility, dedicated to putting the latest, lightest and most sophisticated equipment into the hands of U.S. forces.

The Draper center is run by director Bill Ostrowski, a special forces vet who joined Draper in 2011.

"The center is all about speed," Ostrowski says while conducting a tour. The center is a warren of labs that specialize in everything from improving portable military antennae and enhancing portable field sensors that monitor potential toxins, to designing mobile software that can tell soldiers where they are and what's around them.

A nonprofit, Draper's niche is to take promising academic ideas and help commercialize them for other companies to manufacture in volume. Six years ago, Draper set up a facility on USF Tampa's campus to conjure up biomedical innovations. A second site in St. Petersburg manufactured specialized electronics equipment. Last year, Draper pulled the plug on its Tampa lab and sold its St. Petersburg plant.

Now it's Act 2 for Draper in Tampa Bay.

For SOCom, Ostrowski and his 35 tech experts at the St. Pete facility want to be able to deliver a prototype, customize it to the military's needs, build an actual working model and then test it to be sure it works as needed under potentially harsh conditions.

"Proximity is key to SOCom," Ostrowski said. Now he can meet face-to-face with SOCom leaders to brainstorm how to tweak a prototype. That exchange can not be done from Draper's main office in Cambridge, Mass.

Draper's return to the area could prove a broader opportunity. The company will rely on a host of area specialty manufacturers to help make the end products that the company will help pioneer. And Draper plans to offer (for a fee) its testing expertise to small area companies who might need help in the final designs of their own products.

If SOCom's reach into the private sector sounds familiar, it should.

Led by Geurts, SOCom recently established an idea and prototype lab of its own. Called SOFWERX, the lab currently operates in Ybor City, beyond MacDill's cumbersome high-security fences. Geurts recently told me that the more intellectual firepower and innovation he can harness from the private sector, the better for SOCom.

Draper should add to that arsenal.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.

Comments
He was fired after an encounter with a ‘racist’ customer. After sharing his story, Home Depot changed its mind.

He was fired after an encounter with a ‘racist’ customer. After sharing his story, Home Depot changed its mind.

After a man last Thursday approached the checkout at a Home Depot in Albany, New York, staff member Maurice Rucker asked him to leash his dog. That’s when the man exploded.Rucker, a 60-year-old black man, claimed he was fired Tuesday after defending ...
Published: 07/21/18
Open office plans are as bad as you thought

Open office plans are as bad as you thought

A cubicle-free workplace without private offices is supposed to force employees to collaborate. To have them talk more face-to-face. To get them off instant messenger and spontaneously brainstroming about new ideas.But a recent study by two researche...
Published: 07/21/18
Officials speak out against demolition plans for historic Jordan Park section

Officials speak out against demolition plans for historic Jordan Park section

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas County School board chair Rene Flowers was fired up Friday. She talked about growing up in Jordan Park, the city’s first public housing project and a sentimental and historic marker of St. Petersburg’s African-American commu...
Published: 07/20/18
Florida is still paying SunPass contractor, even after officials said they would stop

Florida is still paying SunPass contractor, even after officials said they would stop

Florida has not stopped paying the SunPass contractor responsible for the tolling system’s outage, even after transportation officials said the state would suspend all payments.In a letter on Monday, FDOT secretary Mike Dew said the state would not p...
Published: 07/20/18
Florida among the top 3 states with the most income inequality

Florida among the top 3 states with the most income inequality

Florida is one of three states in the nation with the biggest income gap between the very rich and everyone else.In 2015, a family in the top 1 percent nationally had an average income of more than $1.3 million — or 26.3 times as much as the $50,107 ...
Published: 07/20/18
Tampa International Airport ranked in top 10 for defense against cyber threats

Tampa International Airport ranked in top 10 for defense against cyber threats

TAMPA — Tampa International Airport was ranked this week as the 10th safest U.S. airport to go online without being hacked, but the ranking is not only about the place, but also about how savvy its travelers are.The data security firm Coronet ranked ...
Published: 07/20/18
When suicide threats come calling: ‘I try to make a connection.’

When suicide threats come calling: ‘I try to make a connection.’

TAMPA — At first glance, it’s a typical office with more than a dozen cubicles under florescent lights. The operators wear headsets and stare into computer screens, some tinkering with handheld toys, others browsing Facebook or chatting with colleagu...
Published: 07/20/18

State record of $321 million in unclaimed property back to residents and businesses

More than $321 million was returned to Florida residents and businesses from the state’s unclaimed property in the past fiscal year.Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis took office in July 2017 and said this year’s total broke last year’s rec...
Published: 07/20/18
Trump ready to hit all Chinese imports with tariffs

Trump ready to hit all Chinese imports with tariffs

Associated PressPresident Donald Trump has indicated that he’s willing to hit every product imported from China with tariffs, sending U.S. markets sliding before the opening bell Friday. In a taped interview with the business channel CNBC, Trump said...
Published: 07/20/18
Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

TAMPA — Tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and other countries are beginning to push up prices and depress demand in spots around the Tampa Bay area and Florida, business executives say."We’ve definitely seen that the tariffs have increased ...
Published: 07/20/18