Understanding the Game Plan
Florida Governor Rick Scott recently announced that Verizon Communications will establish a finance and accounting “Center of Excellence” in Lake Mary, FL. This new facility is projected to create up to 750 new jobs over the next three years and bring a $50 million capital investment to the Metro Orlando region.
This is an outstanding economic development win for the region. But not many people stop to think about what goes into a deal like this and how it comes to fruition.
It starts when a business executive reviews their growth trajectory during their strategic planning process. At this time, the company decides if they are ready to grow in their existing location, if they need to diversify their geographical footprint or if it makes sense for them to do business elsewhere altogether.
From C-Suite to New Site
Once a company makes this decision, it needs to research potential new locations. Within the company, it’s typically a c-suite executive (CEO, CFO, CIO) or a corporate real estate professional (employed by larger companies) who conducts this research. However, sometimes the company relies on an external consultant who specializes in corporate locations (e.g. site selection professionals, lawyers, accountants).
Once the research for a potential new location begins, whoever is conducting the research determines criteria that make the most sense for the company – locations with a favorable tax climate, quality workforce and educational institutions, ease of access, etc.
From there, they are able to create a list of locations to consider based upon the provided criteria. Once this list is available, they reach out to the regions where they would consider locating. Companies or consultants typically reach out to the statewide economic development organization first to learn more about the business climate in the state and narrow down specific communities. Here in Florida,that organization is called Enterprise Florida.
A Team Effort
Enterprise Florida works with the company and then reaches out to the communities across the state that make the most sense from the established criteria set forth by the company. Here in Orlando, Enterprise Florida reaches out to the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission (EDC), the lead economic development organization for the four-county region (Orange, Seminole, Lake, Osceola) of the Orlando MSA.
The EDC then works in partnership with Enterprise Florida to further identify criteria the company has set (e.g. size of the facility needed and whether they need existing space or will build) to identify potential locations within the Orlando region that could work for the company.
In doing so, the EDC engages economic development practitioners from the individual counties and cities where the company is considering locating. The EDC then works in partnership with the local and statewide economic development practitioners to help bring the company and/or consultant to the region to meet in person, provide a regional overview, tour potential sites and meet with other business executives currently in the Orlando region to provide a third party testimonial for the region.
At this point, the company has typically narrowed their decision to just a handful of communities in which to locate. They then begin to evaluate exactly what one community can offer that the other communities cannot. This is where economic development incentives come into play.
Incentives Go Beyond the Monetary
While there has been controversy over the topic of economic development incentives, including in the Florida Legislature, they are still a necessary part of the economic development process. Communities around the world are competing for jobs unlike never before and incentives aim to sweeten a good deal.
But incentives aren’t always monetary. And our community is great at coming together and partnering to compete for a company. For example, in an effort to win the Verizon project, the community brought the University of Central Florida, Seminole State College, Valencia College and Lake Sumter State College together to provide an in-state tuition waiver for employees. This helped to tip the scale into Orlando’s favor.
It has often been said that economic development is a team sport. No one individual or organization is responsible. Instead, economic development is the result of partnerships and collaboration to create much needed jobs for the region.
Frederick W. Leonhardt is an attorney with GrayRobinson, P.A. in Orlando. He is Chairman of the firm’s Policy Board of Directors and Chairman of the Client Development Committee. Fred has served on the Board of Directors for both Enterprise Florida and the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission.