Florida and its diverse cities have long celebrated a powerhouse economy that welcomes visitors, fosters small-business growth and supports entrepreneurs and job creators. In fact, last year, the state announced that Florida outpaced the nation in economic growth, with reports showing that Florida had reached record levels of job creation and a record-breaking budget surplus.
It’s no surprise that many cities throughout the state of Florida — now the fastest-growing state in the nation — have been heralded as up-and-coming tech hubs or the nation’s next Silicon Valley. Those of us who live, work and play in this state already know that Florida is a tech tour de force, with a diverse range of industries and talent available. In fact, in 2021, Florida added more tech companies to its economy than any other state.
Take Miami, where venture capital investments grew in 2022; Gainesville, where the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is bringing artificial intelligence (AI) and agricultural innovations together to create real-world solutions; or Jacksonville, where aerospace manufacturing is taking root. These stories of technological growth and innovation aren’t unique — across the state, cities large and small are embracing tech and the opportunities that come with it.
When I was the mayor of St. Petersburg, I was committed to ensuring St. Pete was a welcoming place to businesses and people alike. And through the hard work of our leaders and entrepreneurs who saw opportunities where others didn’t, the Tampa Bay area is a growing hub for tech talent and entrepreneurs to be able to raise capital and launch their ideas. It continues to expand its support network for Latino startups and is welcoming an impressive list of fintech opportunities. As part of the state’s renowned Interstate 4 Corridor, the Tampa Bay area and its surrounding cities are like many in our state — full of talent, opportunity and innovation.
But this booming tech community didn’t grow overnight. Many years ago, a recession crippled the nation and hit Florida hard. Then in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic halted many industries from growing, and many feared the impact on our state. Today, we are seeing massive layoffs across the tech industry and a federal government that is committed to attacking larger tech companies. Fortunately, Florida continues to be a beacon of hope for tech entrepreneurs, thanks to the work of tech leaders, forward-thinking mayors and legislators, and a state that has prioritized job creation and economic growth.
Florida doesn’t need to fight to be the next California, New York or Texas. Florida’s cities have proven time and again that our state’s success is the result of policies that welcome businesses and create jobs. Our state’s leaders must ensure our communities remain attractive for innovative companies and top talent so that we can continue to grow our economy, at both the state and the local levels. When cities and the state work together to create environments that welcome new industries, new ideas and new talent, the Sunshine State can continue to serve as a model for the nation.
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Rick Kriseman served as the 53rd mayor of St. Petersburg from 2014 to 2022 and is a former Florida representative. He is currently executive vice president and Principal U.S. Cities Practice at Shumaker Advisors.