STEM and R&D employment growing in Tampa Bay area, big on Florida’s Space Coast

Suffolk Construction IT engineer Andy Kunkle uses a remote control and 3D glasses to view project plans at the company’s Computer Aided Virtual Environment room in Tampa on March 14. The number of jobs in the Tampa Bay area in

With affordable housing and the highest percentage of workers employed in "advanced industries" of any Florida metro, the Space Coast has a shot — and not necessarily something as difficult as a moon shot — to become the next Silicon Valley, USA Today’s Florida Voices project reported last week.

In 2015, nearly 14 percent of the local work force in Brevard County — 28,550 employees — was in advanced industries, defined by the Brookings Institution researchers as those where research and development spending per worker ranks among the top 20 percent of industries and the share of workers with a high level of STEM knowledge exceeds the national average.

That covers 50 different industries — 35 in manufacturing, 12 in services, three in energy — ranging from aerospace to auto to medical device manufacture, and including pharmaceuticals, electric power generation, computer system design, software and telecommunications.

That placed the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville area sixth nationally for the percentage of its work force in areas such as R&D and STEM, according to a 2016 Brookings study.

By comparison, the Tampa Bay area had 102,974 advanced industries workers in 2015, or about 8.1 percent of its total work force. That was good enough for only the No. 56 spot on the list of metros that Brookings examined.

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By other measures, there’s a more encouraging picture for the bay area.

For one thing, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater has a bigger economy, with more than $15.8 billion in total output in 2015 from advanced industries, compared with $4 billion in same-sector output on the Space Coast.

And the number of bay area jobs in tech and science industries is not only growing, but the growth is picking up speed. A 3 percent increase from 2010 to 2013 turned into a 3.7 percent increase from 2013 to 2015.

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Here’s the breakdown for jobs in the five largest advanced industries detailed in the Brookings study:

• Management, scientific and technical consulting services: 18,963 jobs, for an 18.4 percent share of the total and 6.4 percent growth from 2013 to 2015.

• Computer systems design and related services: 17,166 workers for a 16.7 percent share and two-year growth of 4.1 percent.

• Architectural, engineering and related services: 13,669 workers; a 13.3 percent share; two-year growth of 4.1 percent.

• Medical and diagnostic laboratories: 4,949 workers; 4.8 percent share; two-year growth of 9.2 percent.

• Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing: 4,918 workers; 4.8 percent share; two-year growth of 3.1 percent.

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Contact Richard Danielson at or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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