4Q4: Four Questions For … Tim Hill, Intuitive Research & Technology Corporation

Tim Hill has seen the depth of Orlando’s defense industry from multiple perspectives.

First, as an officer for the U.S. Navy’s Orlando-based Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) for five years.

Now, he is the director of Central Florida operations for the aerospace company Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation.

So, when he speaks about the region’s depth in defense, he comes from a background of expertise and experience. His thoughts on where one of the region’s most important sectors is headed?

“Central Florida has a strong legacy in modeling, simulation and training, both with technological advances and, more importantly, application for integrated experiences,” he said, noting that $7 billion in MS&T contracts originate from the region. “We are sitting on the launch pad for what many of us believe is an impending explosion in the application of underlying technologies.”

We chatted with Hill to get a feel for the defense industry’s presence here and what MS&T means for the region.

When you think about Orlando and MS&T, what is the economic potential here for the industry in a world where it’s so prevalent?

We’ve seen a bit of that in the entertainment space as augmented and virtual reality have become more common. As an example, many models of automobiles have head-up displays (HUDs) which are a form of augmented reality that improve safety by keeping your eyes on the road, just as we use HUDs in fighters to keep a pilot’s eye in the fight rather than inside the cockpit.

Further, these technologies, combined with advances in “big data” and cybersecurity are the underlying enablers for efficiencies that will be realized by the digital transformation efforts known as “industry 4.0 and 5.0.”

With nearly all of these technologies significantly represented in Central Florida, the narrative of Central Florida as the MetaCenter isn’t an exaggeration.

You spent 34 years in the military. What accomplishment makes you the most proud?

As you might imagine, over that time there were lots of things that stood out. My proudest accomplishment still comes from my time as the commanding officer of an operational strike-fighter squadron.

We deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq in 2010, and one of our basic goals was to bring all of our men and women back home safely. We brought everyone back home to Virginia Beach safely, just before Christmas 2010, and we also brought back all twelve F/A-18F’s with no incidents, all while providing air support for our ground forces in theater.

That remains the most important accomplishment from across my entire career, but I think a close second are a couple of things that launched during my time here at NAWCTSD: the Central Florida Tech Grove and STARBASE Central Florida. Both of those have matured into flagship elements of our ecosystem today. They are both continuing to grow and provide a continuous, positive impact.

Was your recent transition from the military into the private sector easier because of this region’s robust defense industry?

There are a lot of things about transitioning from the military that are far from easy, and I would urge anyone who knows a Veteran to be sensitive to that fact.

That said, both the robust defense industry and the generally high level of economic opportunity in Central Florida at large make it much easier to find a “fit” here in our region. Both the opportunity in our local economy and the welcoming nature of our community made it really easy to stay and make Central Florida home after leaving active duty.

I think you also see that in the large number of Veterans coming to Central Florida from other locations for their post-military home. There are more and more Veterans living here and contributing to our ecosystem with the same level of excellence with which they served our Nation.

That’s a HUGE advantage that our Region has over many others.

What would you say to people from outside Central Florida about how important defense is here and how it coexists with an obvious primary industry (tourism/entertainment)?

In past years, federal spending led the way with technological advances. While that is no longer the case – and a big reason why innovation hubs like the Central Florida Tech Grove exist – defense spending provides a stable base for our economy with reasonable annual growth that isn’t subject to the same swings as other sectors, including tourism/entertainment.

It didn’t take me long after arriving here to realize that it’s not an “either/or” situation between defense and tourism/entertainment in Central Florida. Many of the underlying technologies and skillsets are shared, and the concept of applying technologies to make an integrated experience is shared.

Many have realized that and are collaborating for collective benefit. The more we do that, the more we will continue to grow and improve the resilience of our economy.