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Past meets future in Tampa

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  • | 11:13 a.m. May 22, 2015
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The Heights redevelopment project in Tampa is soldiering up with an organization from U.S. Special Operations Forces that will take over 3,000 square feet in the historic Armature Works building.

SofWorX is a “combustion chamber of ideas” for military users, startup companies, schools and inventors, says James Geurts, the top acquisition official for U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, at nearby MacDill Air Force Base.

“We've been looking for new ways to innovate and connect with small businesses and academia,” Geurts says, in a release.

One way to innovate is through something Geurts calls “Thunderdome” sessions, where people in the military operations community compete on specific challenges or innovative projects. One of those projects is known as TALOS, the tactical assault light operator suit, which operates more like a robotic exoskeleton. It would need to be bulletproof, be able to monitor vitals and more or less create a human tank.

TALOS, Geurts says, is a top priority for SOCOM.

Work on the Armature Works building could begin soon, now that Tampa's architectural review commission approved design plans for a $10 million renovation. The building dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, when it was a streetcar maintenance barn. When automobiles became popular during World War II, the streetcars went away, and Tampa Armature Works took over the building.

It's now the centerpiece of 40 acres of mostly vacant land that SoHo Capital LLC plans to turn into a mixed-use neighborhood.


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