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Florida, Tampa Bay, ranked high in defense spending in 2019

About $29.8 billion was spent in the state in defense contracts and personnel, according to a new report.
Lauren Weiner, 47, is the chief executive officer of WWC Global, a major government contractor in Tampa which is one of local firms promoting the growth of government contracting work in the area. A recent Department of Defense report found that Florida ranked fourth among states in contract and payroll spending.
Lauren Weiner, 47, is the chief executive officer of WWC Global, a major government contractor in Tampa which is one of local firms promoting the growth of government contracting work in the area. A recent Department of Defense report found that Florida ranked fourth among states in contract and payroll spending. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jan. 25

Florida and Tampa Bay ranked high in defense contract and payroll spending in fiscal year 2019 according to a new Department of Defense report.

It comes as no surprise to those in the government contract industry here in Tampa Bay where local political leaders and others work to promote the area as a military-friendly business center.

“Tampa is proud of its strong military ties and the many opportunities for government contracts, especially with the Department of Defense,” said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor in a statement. “The partnerships between our innovative private sector and the DOD help ensure our nation’s security and provide our military service members with the tools they need to stay safe and protect our country.”

In fiscal year 2019 Florida ranked fourth in total defense spending with about $29.8 billion spent in the state, according to the federal report released earlier this month. Of that, about $22.3 billion was in defense contract spending, with $7.5 billion spent on personnel.

That’s an increase from the year prior when about $24.1 billion total was spent in the state.

The latest report also found that Hillsborough County ranked third in the state both in contracts awarded (about $2.1 billion spent) and gross pay for all military personnel in the area (about $857.5 million spent on active duty, reserve, civilian and National Guard pay).

Government contractors such as Lauren Weiner, chief executive of WWC Global based in Tampa, recognize that the Tampa Bay region, and even the Interstate 4 corridor, offer a unique ecosystem for government contract work. Namely, it’s a much more communal than cutthroat environment, unlike traditional areas such as Washington D.C. or Northern Virginia. Weiner, for instance, said she was able to find mentors almost immediately who were willing to walk her through how they did their work.

While making a profit and growing their business is important, she said many firms with military contracts, especially those run by veterans, take satisfaction from serving their country.

“People really are, first and foremost, looking to continue service, as opposed to deriving a business or starting a business,” Weiner said. “And starting that business is one way to continue that service.”

WWC Global offers support services to multiple government agencies, including the Department of Defense, for things such as formulating budgets, and for running major military training and exercises for the U.S. Special Operations Command based at MacDill Air Force Base. As the firm has grown over the years, Weiner, who is also chair of the Tampa Bay Chamber’s Military Council, has noticed that the number of firms in the area has grown. That’s both in terms of firms headquartered here and those headquartered elsewhere with local offices.

Groups including the Tampa Bay Chamber have helped develop support mechanisms to spur this growth.

“The Tampa Bay Chamber has always had a great partnership with MacDill Air Force Base, and we’ve also supported the private sector defense industry that works so closely to support the work at MacDill,” said Bob Rohrlack, president and chief executive, in a statement.

“We’re proud to have defense contractors like WWC Global and others as members of our Chamber that help to educate our membership and the community at large on the importance of keeping defense contractors here in Tampa Bay, and their positive impact on the local economy.”

While government contracts are a major economic driver in the area, Weiner said there’s work to be done in making their significance clearer to those outside of the industry.

“I think it is less visible than we want it to be,” she said. “And one of the things that we’re trying to work on within the Tampa Bay Chamber, and with the mayor, and some politicians around the Tampa Bay region, is to call attention to that and to bring more firms down here.”