New companies and developments at Innovation Square are increasing the demand for local goods and services, allowing businesses all over Gainesville to expand their workforces and invest in other local organizations.
“We used to be surrounded by empty buildings and undeveloped lots,” said Omar Oselimo, who owns Reggae Shack Café, a restaurant in Innovation Square, with his wife. “Now, we have companies and students around Innovation Square that patronize our restaurant.”
After growing Reggae Shack Café from four to 30 employees within Innovation Square, the couple announced their intent to open a new restaurant, Southern Charm, which has directly created 20 jobs.
Enrico Moretti, a professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley, said in his new book, “The New Geography of Jobs,” that “for each new high-tech job in a city, five additional jobs are ultimately created outside of the high-tech sector in that city, both in skilled occupations (lawyers, teachers, construction workers) and in unskilled ones (waiters, hairdressers, cashiers).”
The Jones B-Side restaurant owner Tree Garner said that the restaurant has grown to 36 employees since its inception one year ago, and has seen an increase in sales within the borders of Innovation Square.
Because Oselimo and Garner both use local vendors for “virtually everything” from food and alcohol to printing and plumbing, any money spent on local service or product suppliers is reinvested back into the economy, adding to jobs and the economic impact of the Innovation Square area.
The Citizens Co-op is one of the local food vendors for restaurants like The Jones B-Side and Reggae Shack Café.
“Just this week we reported an 18% sales increase,” said Citizens Co-Op marketing director Julie Matheney. The Citizens Co-op, which will be celebrating its second anniversary this month, has seen its workforce steadily increase.
Artist Alexis Dold said that he’s seen his design and fabrication company, Circle/Square, boom since the construction of Innovation Square. Plans to collaborate with Skanska and other neighboring companies have allowed Dold to bring in his first employee from Eastside High School’s Architecture Construction Engineering (ACE) program.
“I’m getting jobs all over the city that I wouldn’t have gotten if I didn’t have the connections that I do being located in Innovation Square,” Dold said.
Infrastructure projects within Innovation Square are also keeping the local workforce active. Gainesville-based Oelrich Construction is planning on adding a wide array of jobs through its construction of SW Ninth Street, Innovation Square’s much-anticipated “signature corridor”.
“All of the subcontractors that we’re bidding to are local,” said Oelrich Construction project manager Derek Dykes when describing the jobs that will be added in Gainesville through the project. “We’ll be bringing in asphalt layers, equipment workers, electricians, carpenters, landscapers, and others jobs.”
O’Steen Brothers is a 40-year Gainesville-based company that is currently bidding on a part in Oelrich’s SW Ninth Street project.
“I have a workforce ready of over 65 people,” said estimator and project manager Hugh Feather. “If we were successful on the bid we’d be able to add some more concrete finishers, equipment operators, those kinds of jobs.”
Oelrich Construction is currently bidding several other projects and redevelopments around Innovation Square in which it will provide similar jobs and contracting services to Gainesville.
From restaurants to artists to construction, organizations all over Gainesville are feeling the collective growth that follows high-tech developments in Innovation Square. Gainesville-based businesses are describing a pivotal transformation that Innovation Square is causing in the city’s economic landscape.