When most people think of Bay County, they think of
beautiful beaches, but the area is starting to get a new reputation in the tech
When Allan Branch, Co-Founder of LessAccouting.com first
opened the doors of his Panama City office, there weren't many tech companies
in the area. Now, he says, times are changing.
"New York, Chicago,
Austin, they're great cities and they're always going to be bigger than us, but
we can certainly have a huge community here. We have a growing community and
more people are coming around every day," said Branch.
Minutes away from Branch's
office is radar developer DeTect, which recently won a $9.5 million dollar
contract with NASA.
"It'll be the largest
radar we've ever built. It has an antenna the size of a football field,"
said DeTect CEO Gary Andrews.
DeTect has two local offices near the downtown Panama
"We're looking at some large foreign contracts, one
in India right now. That'd be about a $100 million dollar contract for us. If
we're successful with that contract, we'll have to move to a much larger
facility," said Andrews.
A larger facility would mean more jobs for DeTect.
Even during the recession, Andrews says DeTect continued hiring at competitive
"Our average wage rate
here in Bay County is $52,000 a year. When, I think, the local average is only
about $31K. So it creates higher tech, higher wage jobs," said Andrews.
That lower average salary can
actually work to Bay County's advantage, in drawing more tech jobs to the area.
"$50 or 60 thousand
dollars here is a great income. That wouldn't get you an intern in the
Valley," said Branch.
Many believe the local boom in high tech jobs could shape
the future of Panama City.
"We have the potential with iSirona here, with ARA,
with others here to really build a technology campus downtown, where we not
only have buildings, but we have places for people to live and work. That's the
kind of direction I'd like to see us go," said Neal Wade of Bay County's
Economic Development Alliance.
Allan Branch encourages those
interested in pursuing careers in technology based fields to put networking
skills to the test.
He says many people in downtown Panama City offer "meet ups" to teach
some web developing skills for free.
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