High Tech Growing in South Florida but Just Not Fast Enough

West Palm Beach, FL, United States (4E) – By Michael Barnes

A survey of growth in high tech jobs among the three counties of South Florida shows gains in Palm Beach county, but Miami-Dade and Broward still leading the area in overall number of jobs.

Startups account for some of the growth in what the State classifies as high technology industries overall.

Miami-Dade, the most populous of the three South Florida counties, trailed Broward County in high tech employment with 4,321 fewer jobs in 2012, according to labor market statistics from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Miami-Dade shrunk 1.8% from 21,658 high tech jobs in 2011 to 21,265 jobs in 2012. This percentage loss equals the percentage gain of high tech jobs overall in the State of Florida from 2011 (259,939) to 2012 (264,688).

The industries contributing to the loss of high tech jobs in Miami-Dade county are electromedical and electrotherapeutic apparatus manufacturing, wired telecommunications carriers as well as data processing, hosting and related services, according to James Miller, Deputy Chief Communications Officer of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“These declines could be due to slower economies of global trade partners, the restructuring of the telecommunication industry to wireless and outsourcing,” said Miller.

Broward County, the second most populous county in South Florida, grew 2.1% from 25,051 high tech jobs in 2011 to 25,586 jobs in 2012.

Palm Beach County showed the greatest gains. The least populous of the South Florida counties grew 3% from 15,800 high tech jobs in 2011 to 16,281 jobs in 2012.

Palm Beach County officials suggest the growth of high tech jobs is due to an aggressive, overall approach to lure employment to the county.

“You have to look at it from a bigger microscope,” said Kelly Smallridge, President and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County. “It’s not necessarily just technology. If you come here and look at the whole environment of economic development, jobs and what we have to do to foster businesses, this is a very aggressive, hands-on collaborative type of ecosystem that we have here in this county.”

Palm Beach County is focusing on 6-7 clusters in their strategy to market the county to business including aviation airspace companies, business financial services, communications, green technology, life science and biotechnology and the marine industry.

Statewide, officials cite macroeconomic factors in the drag on growth in high tech industries as well as the overall job situation in Florida including slower economies in the emerging markets of China, India and Brazil that affect U.S. exports as well as the European sovereign debt crisis and economic downturn.

The state job market is also hurt by the high rate of home foreclosures and low home values making it difficult for homeowners to refinance or sell. This leads to less worker mobility allowing job hunters to migrate less to higher areas of growth in the state.

Employer uncertainty about economic and tax conditions, healthcare, monetary issues and environmental regulation is another drag on the statewide job effort. This leads corporations to prioritize efficiency over economic expansion. Businesses hoard cash and don’t hire.

In general, high tech and startup employment is growing in South Florida but just not fast enough to make a dent in the high overall unemployment figures in the region.

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