Since opening its doors 20 years ago with the charge to “do good things” in the forensic science community, the National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC) has grown from a single office operation to one of the top defense contractors in Tampa Bay. The long road to this milestone has proved the Largo-based company can stand the test of time.
In October 1995, the O.J. Simpson trial concluded with the verdict announced in front millions of TV viewers from across the world. The months-long trial was sensational and highlighted testimony from forensic scientists and crime scene investigators, piquing public interest in the industry.
Seeing a need to strengthen and support forensic science in response to this new visibility, members of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) founded the NFSTC with $1500. In a small room at the St. Petersburg Community College, NFSTC began its work.
“Our goal from the beginning was to have science serve justice,” explains Kevin Lothridge, CEO at NFSTC. “After mapping out our course, we were awarded federal grant money in 1999 which allowed us to develop laboratory accreditation preparation, nationwide DNA laboratory audits and crime scene investigation and other forensic training to domestic law enforcement agencies.”
By 2011, NFSTC was the recipient of more than $10 million dollars in National Institute of Justice (NIJ) grant funding. But federal funding is cyclical and by 2012 that total plummeted to nearly $4.5 million. In 2014, NIJ funding of training projects by NFSTC and other organizations had completely stopped.
“The funding shift made us look outside the proverbial box to find new customers in need of our expertise,” says Lothridge. “We grew our work as a defense contractor offering CSI training that would work on the battlefield. Staying in business was of course important because no one else does what we do. Staying in operation we felt was an imperative service to the civilian and military law enforcement communities.”
The tenacious organization is now headquartered in a 70,000 square foot facility with an eleven tenant business cluster under the same roof. “We have companies from all areas of forensic science – from digital forensics to DNA technology – working in tandem for the greater good.”
A social media campaign was launched to kick off the 20th anniversary, including unveiling a special logo. NFSTC will be hosting an open house in October to thank the partners, local community leaders and customers and celebrate the past two decades and look forward into the future. “Moving forward is how we got here,” Lothridge says. “Innovation leads to new ideas which leads to more success in the years to come.”
The National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC) provides quality forensic services including training, consulting, technology evaluation to the justice, forensic science and defense communities. NFSTC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation headquartered in Largo, Florida. www.nfstc.org