From preventing cyber attacks to training military members in virtual missions, the new Maritime and Defense Technology Hub in St. Petersburg houses the firms that are aiding the defense intelligence sector.
The waterfront facility at 450 8th Ave. Southeast, formerly used as the SRI International building, is the first-ever hub of its kind in Tampa Bay. The facility, adjacent to the Coast Guard station, opened this month and was created to have spaces for companies seeking a waterfront location to deploy vessels and have a hyper-secured site for highly-classified operations.
The opening follows the city approving a five-year agreement with the Innovation District for the building. Already, over a dozen companies have committed to occupy space inside the 32,386-square-foot facility, creating a 90% occupancy rate.
Roughly 40% of the building is dedicated to co-working space and the remaining square footage includes office suites, labs and a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility).
Here’s an introduction to the companies leasing space inside:
Pole Star: Pole Star is a London-based marine company that collects real-time data on everything from active vessels on the water and issues such as piracy, collisions and predicting weather patterns. The information enables time-critical decisions and mitigates risks of maritime activity. The Hub is now Pole Star’s Florida HQ. Pole Star has the largest amount of space inside the facility.
Gates Defense Systems: Gates Defense Group, which is a graduate of the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, specializes in open-source intelligence training, research and software development for defense intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The company can track the digital exhaust from a target on the dark web and threats on intellectual property theft.
SOFWolf: SOFWolf is a national nonprofit based in St. Pete, and since 2012 has provided STEM education to and career development to children of fallen veterans and from underserved communities. SOFWolf applies research and builds its annual scenario-driven events on a collaborative training and exercise gaming environment developed by and for U.S. Special Operations Forces. SOFWolf is also working with academia, startups and Fortune 100 companies, according to its bio.
DarkStar: DarkStar is a consultant firm that scouts out talented engineers at very competitive rates. The St. Pete firm provides technical support on requests for proposals and TTO responses, as well as key personnel for inclusion in bids. The DarkStar Group was formed to support the missions of the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.
PowerBridge Holdings: PowerBridge is a new startup in Pinellas County that’s working on new battery technology for the maritime and defense sectors.
Virtru: Virtru is a global leader in data encryption, privacy and protection. Virtru equips customers to take control of their data through end-to-end encryption for Google, Microsoft and other data-sharing platforms. The company was founded in 2012 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
EKS Group LLC: EKS is a certified service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB). EKS, based in Brandon, provides intelligence training support includes scenario development, classroom and field instruction, and administrative support.
VATC: Tampa-based Visual Awareness Technologies and Consulting (VATC) is a government contractor providing mission readiness and military exercise programs. The firm designs and customizes live, virtual and constructive training for the Special Operations Forces, while developing realistic joint and interagency training environments for U.S. and partner nations.
MOSAIC Technologies Group: MOSAIC Technologies Group LLC (MOSAIC) was founded in 2005 in Maryland. In 2008, MOSAIC secured its first prime contract and has gone on to win 20 more prime contracts mostly within the Department of Defense and the intelligence community. MOSAIC identifies, resolves, and prevents cyber attacks on information systems. MOSAIC also provides linguistic support to global intelligence missions.
Triton Risk Group: Triton Risk Group is a technology firm that collects data including mobile device data, radio frequency data, records, social media accounts and the dark web. The group has operations out of D.C.
PVM Inc.: PVM is a veteran-owned consulting firm out of California founded by Pat V. Mack. He is a solutions provider who specializes in information technology consulting and software system support. Mack previously lived in St. Pete.
Blue Ring Imaging: Blue Ring Imaging provides virtual reality and mixed reality applications for unmanned underwater systems. The underwater technology has been used for filming live underwater video recordings for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and entertainment broadcasts including the National Geographic Channel. Blue Ring Imaging is a spinoff from California-based company VRTUL.
Woolpert: Woolpert is a large engineering and architecture consulting firm with over 1,300 employees and over 40 locations. It will focus on its maritime division in The Hub, as it has a relationship with the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science. The Hub will be a small footprint for the company.
Cybersecurity attorney Alvin Brown: Alvin K. Brown is a St. Petersburg attorney and data protection and privacy consultant with over 20 years of experience with the Department of Defense and intelligence community. He has an office in the co-working space.
The Hub will also house the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s red tide team, where it can deploy its oceanographic tools. It also serves as the temporary site for the Florida Flood Hub.
Innovation District Director Alison Barlow said there will be another large maritime tenant in addition to Pole Star at The Hub, but she cannot disclose the company’s name at this time.
The facility is nearly full but does have limited co-working space available.
Barlow said the prices for the co-working space are based on a membership model, while the suites are priced at a standard lease based on square footage, which Barlow said is lower than the current market value.