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International Consortium Sets Up Shop for Advanced Manufacturing Research

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

Here we go again.

A metropolitan area in the center of the state is putting together a public-private partnership to attract high-tech companies, convincing them to set up shop and create jobs. Part of the attraction is a big public university, engaging in advanced research.

Austin, Texas? No, now it’s Orlando, Florida.

Yes, the home of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and other magnets for visiting families.

About one-third of the jobs in Orlando are in hospitality and tourism, according to Dave Porter, senior vice president of business development for the Orlando Economic Development Commission. The other two-thirds are in a variety of other industries, including energy, military contracting, and telecommunications.

Porter is a veteran of attracting industry to a metropolitan area;  he previously spent a decade working for the Austin Chamber of Commerce, which actively worked with the city and state governments to bring many high-tech employers to the capital of Texas, before joining the Orlando EDC this year.

One of Orlando’s big gets is the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR), which has a hand in constructing a facility in Osceola County known as the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, or FAMRC, in cooperation with the University of Central Florida. Osceola County has chipped in nearly $138 million for building the FAMRC, which is scheduled to open in 2016 and will house ICAMR and other parties, especially those interested in the development and manufacturing of smart sensors.

UCF kicked in $17 million of funding, while other Florida universities contributed toward building the center, and the State of Florida may invest in the facility, as well.

ICAMR is modeled after Sematech, the semiconductor manufacturing technology consortium once based in Austin, which helped attract many chip-related businesses to Central Texas over 25 years, according to Porter.

“Orlando is well known, but poorly understood,” he says. “It’s the youngest city in Florida.” The metro area has a labor pool of more than 1.2 million people, with 500,000-plus students within a 100-mile radius.

Sensors are at the heart of the grand scheme known as the Internet of Things. Whether IoT takes off or not, there will be greater demand for more sophisticated sensing technology in the years to come, and ICAMR wants to help lead that field. Porter says business leaders and politicians are always talking about “bringing manufacturing back to the U.S.,” and ICAMR/FAMRC could help that.

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