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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Capitalizing on military assets

This week, more than 6,000 delegates will convene in Tampa for the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) at the Tampa Convention Center. Hotels throughout the region are filled with top executives from the nationís leading defense contractors, attracted by the business opportunities available through the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base since 1987, the primary mission of USSOCOM is to organize, equip, train and deploy special operations forces globally, with a $1.8 billion procurement budget to drive the operation. SOFIC provides a marketplace to connect the military procurement officers, commanders and senior enlisted advisers with the companies hoping to fill those needs. Not only is this event a boon for our local tourism industry, it provides us with a unique platform to showcase one of the strongest and most significant areas of economic opportunity in Tampa Bay. In 2012, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation (EDC) completed a Military Transformation Strategy report, on behalf of the City of Tampa. The study asked a simple question: How can we leverage the regionís military assets to create more jobs and capital investment for Tampa and Hillsborough County?
The answer is right in front of us. Although other communities are forced to spend significant resources to attract the attention of defense-related businesses, for one week each year, we have a captive audience here in our own backyard. Itís up to us to leverage this opportunity, and turn it into an economic advantage for Tampa Bay. Thatís why Mayor Bob Buckhorn will officially welcome the attendees of SOFIC to Tampa on Tuesday, helping each of those companies understand the incredible advantages of doing business in our community; from a highly skilled workforce filled with military veterans and retirees, to the pervasive ďcan do, will doĒ attitude adopted by our business and community leadership. Itís why the EDC team and volunteers from our Defense and Security Task Force will spend time at the event, developing critical business connections and encouraging these companies to expand or relocate in Hillsborough County, while showing our appreciation to the many who have already established a presence here. That existing footprint is surprisingly substantial, and the local impact should not be overlooked. Nearly 2,400 defense contractors can be found in the eight-county Tampa Bay region, almost half of which are located in Hillsborough County. Since 2000, these businesses have been the recipients of almost 45,000 military contracts valued at more than $24 billion. Many of these companies operate within key sectors that align with areas of strategic growth, including: modeling and simulation, cyber security and intelligence, manufacturing, and rehabilitative medicine. From such global powerhouses as Honeywell and Lockheed Martin, to locally-operated players such as Celestar Corporation, Arma Global, Advanced C4 Solutions, Lukos, CAE USA and more, we have an exciting opportunity to build upon this existing base and position Tampa Bay as the premiere location for the defense and security industry. At SOFIC, we take our first mission-critical step.

Rick Homans is the President and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, the lead economic development agency for Hillsborough County and the cities of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace.

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