Industry leaders sound off on Orlando’s high-tech disconnect

Tom Baptiste wants to see more connectivity between the area’s three segmented high-tech industry hubs.

The president and CEO of the -based National Center for Simulation described how downtown’s startups launch innovative ideas, the University of Central Florida area in east Orlando attracts plenty of for large defense contractors, and the theme park-area helps birth a lot of cool technology, too. But there’s nothing bridging those three regions.

“We need to communicate more,” Baptiste said, adding that he just joined the Orlando Tech Association board to try to change that. “There’s downtown Orlando, a tourist piece in the west and there is a high-tech piece in the east, and they never touch. Why I just don’t know. You’ve got the second largest university in America out there on the east side with the simulation industry [in the 1,000-acre Central Florida Research Park], but it just seems like we are missing something in tying together all of the technology that metro Orlando has.”

Baptiste joined 11 other leaders on July 9 for Orlando Business Journal‘s Technology Industry Outlook at Lynx’s downtown headquarters. The executives discussed a variety of topics, including what Central Florida’s tech industry is doing well — including the success of research park and its big employers like Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT), JHT Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC) — and what the region needs to improve. Here’s what they had to say:

Brenda Prenitzer, CEO, and founder, NanoSpective Inc.: “A gap or void that I see in the area is hardware. We are very strong in apps and programming and simulation, but we don’t seem to have a strong manufacturing hardware sector. I spent some time in Silicon Valley and something I heard from some of the workers there is that it’s an artificial environment and it is a wonderland. People are craving someplace other than Silicon Valley to do business and I think hardware is an opportunity for us.”

Suneera Madhani, CEO, and founder, Fattmerchant Inc.:“Another opportunity for our technology scene is the connection between the startups and the business world. Those two sectors are not talking to each other. We have some really great things happening in the startup world and we have so many great large corporations, but startups are not getting the opportunity to work with large corporations that can take innovation to the next level.”

Bob Kilmer, training and logistics solutions vice president of engineering and technology, Lockheed Martin Rotary & Mission Systems: “Florida does have a very good business environment. Florida supports our initiatives and we have a great partnership with . Orlando has a diverse where we do have the tourism that helps offset when things ebb and flow. The struggle that I see is the people. As we continue to grow — we’ve doubled our workforce in the last four years — we’re getting all the talent pool that’s here, so now we are having to go outside Orlando to try to bring in more talent. It is surprisingly difficult to get people to come.”