COVER STORY

Gainesville goes global

From software to supplement, medical devices to drones, these days, “Made in Gainesville” is a label seen around the world


Grooveshark CEO and founder Sam Tarantino and co-founder Josh Greenberg at their downtown Gainesville office.

Doug Finger
Published: Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 3:05 p.m.

In downtown Gainesville, 90 mostly young tech workers toil at computer screens in the second-floor offices of the music streaming service Grooveshark, with 30 million users worldwide sharing 15 million audio files. Across the street, video game developers at Trendy Entertainment develop the latest iterations of the Dungeon Defenders game that has sold more than 4 million downloads worldwide.

From a 42-acre manufacturing plant off of County Road 235 in Alachua, Sandvik Mining crafts 165-ton mining rigs that ship in pieces to companies that drill for copper, nickel, iron, coal and gold on six continents.

At a corporate park off of U.S. 441 in Alachua, RTI Surgical produces surgical implants sold in nearly 50 countries, while down the road in Gainesville, Exactech makes bone and joint implants sold in more than 35 countries.

These are but a sampling of the dozens of companies in area office buildings, corporate parks and industrial areas creating products sold throughout the state, nation and world. Their offerings range from software to septic tanks, sailboats to supplements, chemicals to countertops, beer to beanbag beds.

The Gator Nation is hardly the only Gainesville-born creation that can be found everywhere. In the last several years, Gainesville has truly gone global, with new companies springing up, bearing the fruits of University of Florida research or simply someone's good idea.

According to the International Trade Administration, the Gainesville Metropolitan Statistical Area accounted for $348.6 million in export trade in 2012. That makes up 3.3 percent of the $10.4 billion gross domestic product, compared to 5.5 percent for similarly sized metros and 11.4 percent nationwide.

While comparatively low, local exports have grown 49 percent since 2009, compared to 45 percent for all metro areas.

News to you? Not surprising: In a company town where the company's main product is educated people, the great many firms, new and established, churning out products and services for the world are easily overlooked.

Susan Davenport, vice president of economic development for the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce and Council for Economic Outreach, says the challenge is to tell the story of Gainesville's business success to the state, national and international markets in order to build on that success.

“I think Gainesville's whole story — there's a great opportunity to tell that from the multitudes of parts of what's going on here, from the sophisticated businesses, from many of the growing clusters."

To that end, Davenport says, the Chamber and CEO is updating its Innovation Gainesville economic development plan to include globally marketing the area's offerings and and helping companies that want to export products and services.

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