DAMON HIGGINS (From left to right) 3CInteractive employees Vic Shroff, vice president of channel sales, Sari Terceira, human resources director, and Vinnie Fiordelisi, marketing director, inside their edgy, creative Boca Raton office. The company offers a cloud platform called Switchblade. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)
Posted: 12:00 a.m. Sunday, July 21, 2013
BY WADE MILLWARD – PALM BEACH POST STAFF WRITER
South Florida’s high-tech industry could rival those in Boston, New York and San Diego, and the region very well could be the next Silicon Valley.
What’s stopping this shared dream by the local tech-business community, members say, is an image issue.
“I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had where I tell people what I do and where I work and they say, ‘Oh, my grandma lives down there,’” 3CInteractive’s marketing director Vinnie Fiordelisi said.
Fiordelisi and his Boca Raton-based mobile marketing company are among those in the Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties hoping a change in the region’s image can help put South Florida on the tech industry map.
The latest effort comes from the South Florida Technology Alliance, a Fort Lauderdale nonprofit providing networking and education opportunities to unite South Florida tech businesses.
“The alliance, with members from Miami to the Treasure Coast, is planning and fundraising for a new campaign”, organization President Lonnie Maier said. “The campaign will bring together traditional technology-focused businesses — such as 3CInteractive — and nontraditional companies.”
Maier defined nontraditional companies to include Boca Raton-based Modernizing Medicine, whose software helps doctors create electronic medical records, and the Scripps Research Institute, a biomedical research facility in Jupiter.
Specific events will be announced for the fall, but the goal is to better involve companies and universities in all three counties while broadcasting the region’s appeal to investors nationwide through a website, sftechinfo.org.
The alliance, which already holds monthly meetings featuring speakers and tools for businesses, wants to raise $250,000 for the campaign, said Bob G. Nagro, a partner at the Next Horizon Communications LLC communications company assisting with the campaign.
“The long-term goal is returning South Florida to previous tech glory”, alliance board Chairman Lenny Chesal said. In the ’80s, Boca Raton was known as the birthplace for IBM’s personal computer, but the region’s popularity waned after the tech giant moved manufacturing out of the state.
In the late ’90s and early ’00s, so many vendors visited South Florida during the dot-com heydays, Chesal recalled, that he and his coworkers hardly ever bought their own lunches.
That was when he was a marketer at Boca Raton-based data storage provider TelePlace, before the bubble burst and ushered in the early 2000s recession. Any major reinvestment in the industry was hindered by the more recent Great Recession.
“Some of the region’s challenges are a lack of skilled workers and convincing young people and college students to stay in the area after an internship”, Ultimate Software’s Bill Hicks said.
“Awareness campaigns fall short when they’re unable to last as long as needed”, the Weston-based software company’s chief information officer said.
“I think they’ll have great success,” he said of the alliance. “The key item is, don’t just lose interest in the journey.”
Fiordelisi, whose 3CInteractive is across the street from an old IBM campus, said his company needs workers skilled in databases and Java to fill a need and help continue growth. What the alliance needs to sell is the state’s business-friendly tax rates and attractive quality of life.
“Everyone wants to live in South Florida, but if you’re a developer you probably don’t understand there are so many opportunities down here for a career,” Fiordelisi said.
“A campaign like this will really help spread the word.”