How do you market one of America’s biotechnology hotspots to the world?
Develop and execute a comprehensive and diversified economic development strategy that includes measurable goals, incorporates actionable steps, and leverages key regional assets.
This is what the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce did in 2015 when it built upon previous momentum and launched the five-year Transforming Greater Gainesville Economic Development Strategy.
Initially, over 60 private and public sector entities pledged several million dollars to transform the region through marketing, business retention and expansion, ecosystem development, and business climate enhancement. The number of investors in the strategy has since grown to include nearly 80 local companies and organizations.
Transforming Greater Gainesville strategic goals include closing on 50 projects by 2020 yielding over 3,500 new jobs in the following five targeted industry clusters: advanced logistics, advanced materials, agricultural life sciences, human life sciences, and software/IT.
Ultimately, the strategy seeks to generate $218 million in new salaries and $250 million in new capital investment in the region.
Since launching it in 2015, the Chamber has continued to execute enhanced business recruitment, expansion and retention efforts, and startup and international trade initiatives, resulting in the announcement of nearly 1,000 jobs and nearly $83 million in new capital investment.
The Chamber has hosted national and international prospects across industries, and conducted outbound marketing visits to Silicon Valley and cities such as Chicago, Boston, and New York. It also executed a media outreach-driven marketing strategy targeting trade media in key industries, both visiting out of market outlets, and conducting inbound media familiarity tours.
The Chamber – which has more than 1,300 members employing over 80,000 people, and is 5-Star accredited – has professional staff and volunteer business and nonprofit leaders working together to make Greater Gainesville a global hub of talent, innovation, and opportunity.
“Marketing our region is a major component of our economic development strategy as it supports our region’s visibility and consideration in any of the hundreds of thousands of business relocation and/or expansion decisions that happen around the globe each year,” said Kevin Monroe, 2018 Chair of the Chamber’s Board of Directors.
“Our global marketing efforts aim to establish and increase Greater Gainesville’s market share of those decisions, and bring new jobs, capital investment and opportunity to the people of our region,” added Mr. Monroe, who recently oversaw economic development efforts as Chair of the Chamber’s Council for Economic Outreach.
Transforming Greater Gainesville contains the following four strategies:
Strategy I: Marketing Initiative to Position the Gainesville Region as a Global Hub of Talent, Innovation, and Opportunity. Tactics involve developing robust digital marketing tools and launching internal and external regional marketing campaigns, which include joint campaigns with the University of Florida and Santa Fe College focusing on target industries such as biotech.
Strategy II: Enhanced Business Development. Actions in this category encompass outbound business and capital attraction and recruitment delegation visits, maintaining a dedicated software system, launching industry councils for vital sectors such as manufacturing and healthcare, and communicating real estate needs of businesses with area developers.
Strategy III: Regional Growth (Ecosystem Development and Improved Business Climate). Actionable steps entail supporting game-changing regional investment projects such as the Cade Museum, infrastructure development, talent alignment and workforce development, and public policy engagement.
Strategy IV: Expanded Regional Stakeholders and Investor Relations. Engagement touchpoints include regular meetings with public and private sector regional partners, investor appreciation events, investor lunches and briefings, and media releases.
Greater Gainesville is already rich in educational, cultural, career, and business opportunities. The strategy – which is expected to bring more economic activity, resources and people to the region – would help make the area an even better place to live, work, and play.
Leveraging Key Regional Assets
Greater Gainesville has some of the best educational and research assets in America. The region is home to the University of Florida, the #9 ranked public university in the nation with over 50,000 students and $800 million in annual research spending and Santa Fe College, the #1 ranked community college in the nation with approximately 25,000 students.
The biotech sector in North Central Florida is a major selling point for the region. The sector is strong, being represented in BioFlorida by such companies as RTI Surgical, AGTC, Axogen, InterMed, Tucker-Davis Technologies, and many others. Santa Fe College Biotechnology Technician program participants and UF graduates provide a strong and steady stream of biotech talent to area businesses.
“Alachua County and North Central Florida have a significant biotech company presence; many of these companies have a global customer base, which not only brings people in from around the world to visit the area but also provides exposure for the North Central Florida research corridor with their worldwide clients,” said Mark S. Long, Director of UF Incubation Services, who has published several books on business incubation.
The UF Incubation Services office provides quality space, solid mentoring and advising, and access to capital and education for startup companies. “The UF Sid Martin Incubator recently won the “Global Incubator of the Year” award for the 2nd time, which establishes UF Sid Martin as a “household name” in the global marketplace,” commented Mr. Long.
“The UF Innovation Hub continues to attract visitors and companies from around the globe, once again providing great exposure for the North Central Florida area. We recently admitted companies from China, Russia and Brazil and we have a partnership with the national incubation group in Chile,” added Mr. Long.
Mr. Long sees compelling reasons why biotech professionals and/or companies should come to this region. “First, of course, is the number and size of biotechnology companies in the area; there’s a ‘critical mass’ here which provides for great job opportunities.”
“Second is the power of UF, an almost billion-dollar research enterprise, known around the world for excellence in medicine, engineering, veterinary sciences and agriculture. Third would be it’s a GREAT place to live – reasonable cost of living, great people and of course, great weather!” observed Mr. Long.
By Kamal I. Latham