Greater Gainesville is an ideal lifestyle destination for cutting-edge companies and smart people who thrive in a culturally rich, naturally beautiful environment that spawns innovation.
Greater Gainesville’s innovation ecosystem, education resources and world-class cultural offerings make it a region rich in opportunities for virtually any business or individual to work successfully and live fully. The upward trajectory of opportunity in the Gainesville Metropolitan Area is demonstrated by its increasing gross domestic product, which in 2016 reached nearly $12.5 billion, up nearly $1 billion since 2014.
Greater Gainesville is home to many of the nation’s brightest students and a large concentration of young, creative and intelligent innovators, and continues to rise as a region leading the state in research, startups and workforce innovation. While the area’s culture of innovation has been a defining characteristic of its economy, businesses and overall identity for the past two decades, Greater Gainesville’s trail of innovation was first blazed just over 50 years ago when Gatorade made the commercial leap from the lab of then-UF professor of renal medicine Dr. J. Robert Cade to retail shelves.
Since the commercialization of Gatorade, the University of Florida has set the tone for entrepreneurship, strengthened by its prowess in garnering research funds – in 2016, UF brought in a record $791 million – as well its affinity for building partnerships that encourage the transfer of its research to market. The result has been an ecosystem fueled by a steady proliferation of innovative businesses, state-of-the-art products and services, and world-class incubators to nurture the companies that produce them. Further enriching this ecosystem is Santa Fe College – ranked in 2015 by the Aspen Institute as the nation’s No. 1 community college – which has continued to prove its ability to produce graduates prepared to pursue higher education or have the relevant skills local employers need. Since winning the Aspen Award, Santa Fe College has received other accolades, including the Chancellor’s Best Practice Award, which signifies a college’s excellence in pioneering inventive practices or enhancing existing programs.
Greater Gainesville’s business ecosystem has garnered national and international recognition in recent years, which has turned a spotlight on the success of individual companies and has increased regional resources for innovation.
Homegrown companies and incubators in Greater Gainesville have achieved momentous successes in recent years. In 2017, for the second time, the Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute received the International Business Innovation Association’s highest award, the Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year Award (SMBI received the award for the first time in 2013). The Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC) – led by Santa Fe College and the City of Gainesville – currently is incubating more than 20 companies, and has a long roster of successful alumni companies, including Optym, which completed its second major expansion in 2017. The University of Florida’s Innovation Hub – which has assisted more than 60 companies resulting in more than 960 jobs and $67 million in private investment – is nearing the completion of a second phase that will accommodate an additional 45 companies with a focus on women-owned companies. The expansion is funded by an $8 million award from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The availability of Class-A office space continues to grow, meeting a true need for high-end, state-of-the-art office facilities. Info Tech – a leader in fraud-detection software, computerized methods for detecting collusive behavior in sealed bid markets, and more – moved its operations and almost 250 employees into a new, 65,000-square-foot facility in Celebration Pointe, which has a plethora of additional office space in development.
Innovation Square is also home to several of these new luxury office facilities, including 800 Second, which broke ground in late 2017, and Ingenuity, a 50,000-square-foot contemporary space that was fully leased nearly a year prior to completion, and others.
In 2017, Greater Gainesville’s economic development efforts, which include major expansion or development affiliated with companies such as Optym, Captozyme and Florida Power & Light, have resulted in more than $55 million in new capital investment.
Other projects and proposals continue to result in exponential growth and opportunity for the region. The Butler Plaza expansion—which has brought major new retail opportunities throughout 2016 and 2017—continues to move forward with the construction of Butler Town Center, designed to bring a new air of sophistication to Gainesville in an urban, walkable and livable open-air retail environment.
Meanwhile, Celebration Pointe continues to advance its own development, which ultimately will include a new hotel, movies, living and Class-A office space options all built to revolve around a highly amenitized and energized main street dubbed “City Walk.”
Key Industries & Employers
Greater Gainesville’s key industries include advanced logistics, advanced materials, agricultural sciences, biotechnology/life sciences and software/information technology.
In particular, a portfolio of businesses and talent resources comprise a robust biotechnology sector, which includes companies such as Ology (formerly Nanotherapeutics), AGTC, Brammer Bio, RTI Surgical, NovaBone, Captozyme, Axogen and others. Adding to region’s ability to grow biotechnology businesses is access to a ready supply of relevant talent produced by sources such as the University of Florida, Santa Fe College and CareerSource North Central Florida, which collaborate to tailor skills of graduates and trainees to meet the needs of local industry.
The region’s advanced manufacturing industry is anticipated to grow, as evidenced by several local companies’ projection of a collective $292 million in new capital investment (as noted in responses to a 2015 survey of regional manufacturers). Greater Gainesville’s advanced manufacturing industry ranks among Florida’s top third in size for manufacturing industry clusters.
The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce has created and nurtured councils in the five key industries to increase cohesion and provide businesses with industry-specific connections, resources and guidance.
Increasing in Notoriety, Quality of Life and Opportunity
Greater Gainesville has received numerous recognitions and accolades in recent years. Some of these recognitions are directly tied to the strength of the region’s education assets. For example, in 2017, the University of Florida became the state’s first university to break the top 10 in the U.S. News and World Report’s annual Best Colleges and Universities ranking. In 2016, UF also ranked No. 1 among public universities for having the highest rate of graduate employability; in the same ranking, UF came in eighth overall in a group that included some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions, including Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2017, Santa Fe College received the Chancellor’s Best Practice Award from the Florida Department of Education for its efforts to reduce student loan debt through a four-pronged financial aid campaign.
Other recognitions speak to the positives of living, working, playing and doing business in the Greater Gainesville area. In the last five years, the region has received numerous rankings and recognitions, including being named one of the top six most affordable Florida Cities by Livability.com (2017), the top three college towns for a weekend getaway by U.S. News Travel (2016), the No. 2 Leading Metro for Economic and Job growth (Area Development magazine, (2014), the best Florida City for Jobs and Careers (Forbes, 2012), and the No. 1 City on the Rise (NerdWallet, 2013).
As Greater Gainesville’s culture of innovation continues to evolve, so does the fabric of its intelligent, diverse and welcoming community. The region’s excellent quality of life exists against a friendly backdrop of purpose-driven organizations and unparalleled natural beauty.
Greater Gainesville is also home to a thriving cultural scene, which includes a national ballet company, museums, a world-class symphony orchestra and delectable, international dining options, all of which serve as additional economic drivers.
Gainesville’s beautiful natural environment is unmatched in Florida, offering recreational options such as the Devil’s Millhopper Geological Park, or boardwalk tours of Paynes Prairie, Florida’s first state preserve, as well as High Springs, which is world famous for its rivers and freshwater springs.