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County on Cutting Edge of Tech Savvy Growth

Efforts to cultivate a tech hub are succeeding

The Tampa Bay area is gaining a national reputation as an up-and-coming player in the scramble to attract high-tech jobs, and Hillsborough County is nurturing the trend.

Established technical firms and start-ups, along with IT arms of most sizable local companies, are changing the way Hillsborough County does business. Economic Development supports the budding tech ecosystem by providing grant funding, connecting practitioners, and helping firms acquire capital to pursue innovative ideas.

Technology companies bring desirable, well-paying jobs to a community. They develop new services and industries, and improve existing ones. Collectively, they give an area a certain cachet, a sense of looking to the future, rather than relying solely on what has worked in the past.

Hillsborough County aims to create a buzz about the promise of tech in the area, and to support the industry in delivering on that promise.

Cardinal Solutions came to Hillsborough County five years ago. With about 500 employees in eight cities, it provides creative technology to meet the needs of each client. Primarily, Cardinal partners with Fortune 1000 organizations in finance, health care, retail, and manufacturing fields throughout West Central Florida.

Cardinal chose Hillsborough County because of an existing pool of smart, forward-thinking people who "do what we do," company leaders say. There's also a favorable climate for networking and establishing partnerships. And, it's a great place for employees to live, with warm weather, beaches, fishing, and other attractions.

Strawberries
Project Manager Liam Brien, right, speaks with colleagues at Cardinal Solutions.

It's important for tech companies to locate in communities where businesses value what cutting-edge ideas and software can do for them. Cardinal identifies a client's root problem and fashions a solution with custom software, whether the challenge involves marketing, building additions/renovations, or employee training. "They're trying to find that edge, to get more value, faster, by using IT," says Liam Brien, project manager of Cardinal's office on Harbour Island.

Cardinal collaborates with other tech companies, and with businesses that have established IT departments. "As we grow, they grow," Brien says.

Economic Development is strengthening services and resources for the tech industry in Hillsborough County, encouraging both established companies like Cardinal and start-ups. In addition to the Economic Development Innovation Initiative, it works closely with non-profit partners - the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa, Hillsborough Community College, Tampa Bay Wave, and the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator - that support the area's tech entrepreneurs.

The County's Entrepreneur Collaborative Center in Ybor City has a variety of programs for start-ups and tech-oriented professionals. And monthly Homebrew Hillsborough sessions encourage networking among techies and entrepreneurs. They are two more reasons why Hillsborough County increasingly is viewed as a current and future tech hub.

Top photo: This image provided by Microsoft shows a type of mixed reality technology that Cardinal Solutions can apply to meet needs of clients in West Central Florida. Cardinal partners with Microsoft to provide innovative business solutions to large and small businesses.

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