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The culmination of Palm Beach County’s industrial age occurred in 1981, when IBM developed the first personal computer (PC) at its Boca Raton headquarters. A team of engineers had worked on “Project Chess” around the clock in secrecy led by manager Don Estridge, who died with other IBM employees in a 1985 plane crash.

IBM’s Boca Raton operation grew to four million square feet and employed nearly 10,000 people before it was thrown into turmoil by technological revolutions after 1985. The company moved its Boca manufacturing operations in 1987 to Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Boca location became a development facility for its Personal Systems line. In 1993 the company's annual net losses reached $8 billion. IBM finally closed its Palm Beach County facilities in 1996, but returned to Boca Raton in 2001 to open a software development laboratory off Congress Avenue.

One of the labs where the IBM Personal Computer was created is now T-REX Corporate Center on Yamato Road (NW 51st Street). The former IBM Building 051, across Spanish River Boulevard from the former IBM campus, was donated to the School District Palm Beach County and converted into Don Estridge High Tech Middle School in 2004.

The rest of big industry that had come to Palm Beach County in the ‘60s and ‘70s were affected by ups and downs to varying degrees. After withdrawing from the general-purpose computer business in 1971, RCA maintained a reduced staff in Palm Beach Gardens until it closed in 1986. Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, which was expanding at the time, leased RCA’s excess space. But in 2000, Pratt &Whitney closed most of its Palm Beach Gardens operations, retaining only the Space Propulsion Division and Sikorsky Aircraft.

Motorola made its final exit in 2004, after gradually downsizing its pager division headquarters in Boynton Beach. Solitron Devices moved from Riviera Beach to West Palm Beach in 1993, where it remains today. Siemens Communications Systems still maintains a major facility in Boca Raton, including Nokia Siemens Networks US.


Scripps Florida

Scripps Florida, a division of The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, is a state-of-the-art biomedical research facility adjoining the John D. MacArthur Campus of Florida Atlantic University in Jupiter. About 30 acres are on the campus; 70 acres more are available for expansion on adjacent land in Palm Beach Gardens. Start-up costs were supported by a $310 million appropriation by the Florida Legislature. Palm Beach County provided funding for land and construction of the current 345,000-square-foot facility, where Scripps Florida began operations in 2009.

Several private donors in Palm Beach County, because they have pledged $100,000 annually or a single contribution of $1 million, are members of Scripps’ “Council of 100”: Renate and Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr., Wilma and George Elmore, Florence A. and Lawrence J. DeGeorge, Elizabeth Fago. Marjorie S. Fink, Harris Hollin of the Conquer Fragile X Foundation, Dr. John C. Whelton of the Arthritis Foundation, Cynthia H. Polsky of the Lita Annenberg Hazen Foundation, and Office Depot. Marjorie Fink and Alex Dreyfoos also serve as trustees.



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