Osceola seeks South Korea business expert to recruit firms to NeoCity

Osceola County is looking for expert help to recruit South Korean technology companies to NeoCity

The county published a Request for Letters of Interest (RFLOI) and Statement of Qualifications for consultants fluent in the language and business culture of South Korea.

"The South Korean government is investing tens of millions of dollars in technology development, and we're looking at ways we might attract some of that to NeoCity," County Manager Don Fisher said. 

County and BRIDG executives have been in discussions with South Korean firms for years. Now they see the 500-acre technology district as an ideal home for companies such as Samsung and LG to expand their U.S. presence, in terms of research and development as well as production.

Dr. Robert Porter, former head of the UCF Executive Development Center, accepted a position this summer as the county's new Executive Director of Economic Development and Strategy. He's spearheading the search. 

The ideal candidate would be based in Central Florida. They don't need to have a technology background, but should be able to bring parties to the table who have that expertise, Porter said.

"We're looking for someone who can be a relationship broker," he said.

The initial contract would be for a 120-day advisory position, and the consultant would be expected to organize a South Korean advisory committee. Porter said if the relationship is fruitful, the contract could be extended.

Porter said South Korea could be a natural partner with BRIDG because the nation's tech industry is already a leader in developing an IoT platform of sensors.

"They could bring scientists to help collaborate on product design," he said.

Osceola Commissioner Cheryl Greib first pitched the idea of hiring a consultant. She said more than a dozen U.S. states have permanent business-development offices in South Korea.

"In doing business with Asian companies, it's so important to have one-on-one meetings and build strong relationships," she said. "If we're going to work with them, we need to know what their culture is."

Greib and Jeff Jones, the county's director of strategic initiatives, were scheduled to be keynote speakers at a tech conference in Seoul last year but had to cancel the trip because of Hurricane Maria.

"The new president there is bent on strengthening their economy and improving trade with the U.S., and he's committed to invest $17.3 billion here by 2021," Greib said. "I see this as a great opportunity." 

The advisory position is not related to the county's current negotiations with "Project Villach." Commissioners in July approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the unnamed private industry user who committed to building a 20,000-square-foot lakefront "innovation center" in NeoCity.

Fisher said he is still negotiating the final terms with the company.

Earlier this year, software giant Siemens announced a strategic partnership with BRIDG to develop digital twin technology. The Fortune 500 company joins Belgium-based imec as early anchors of the district.

Osceola County is now in vertical construction for its first Class A office building at NeoCity, and the school district will build a STEM-focused magnet school there in 2019.  

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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