April 16, 2014

FLORIDA Perception vs. Reality

Sounding Board: What does Florida mean to you?

Site selectors, economic recruiters, competitors, new business arrivals and those who chose to move elsewhere offer insights on the state.

DEPARTURES
? ?(people who left Florida or chose not to come here)

Lou Guillette

"For folks at Florida universities, there's a perception that everybody is replaceable. When I interviewed in South Carolina, the provost told me his job as the leader of a major university is to figure out who he couldn't afford to lose and how to keep them. I still miss being in a college town and being at UF, but the opportunities I have here are greatly expanded by having an endowed chair. The only thing that was guaranteed at UF was nine months' salary and lab space. In contrast, here I have an almost $4-million endowed chair. I don't have to worry about whether I will have to let people go."

Lou Guillette, professor of obstetrics and gynecology
and an endowed chair in marine genomics at the
Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Guillette left Florida in 2010 after 25 years at the University of Florida.

Joe Steier

"We are huge Florida fans. I keep a home there. Relocating was definitely a hard decision. We worked with Charlie Crist and Jeff Atwater to stay in Florida, but it's hard when you are an existing business. There is a tendency to always reward the new and not build the existing. Nashville and Louisville made offers that were really aggressive. What Kentucky did for us, the package was closer to $8 million total. From where we were, it was a really good decision at the time. It was definitely not an easy move to make and complex emotionally, but we are a better company now."

Joe Steier, president and CEO of Signature Healthcare,
which moved its headquarters from Palm Beach County to Louisville, Ky., in 2010

Emily Patterson

"My husband was working for a small consulting firm in Memphis, and one of their competitors (in Orlando) contacted him. At the beginning, we said no, and they said, ‘come back and consider it.' The cost of living was very, very high compared to Memphis. In Winter Park, for us to get a comparable house to what we have, it would have been upwards of $600,000. Our house, at the time, was a $350,000 house. That was really discouraging to us. We had heard great things about education, but the schools that were really good were in neighborhoods that were unaffordable to us. We felt there wasn't a lot of culture to that area."

Emily Patterson, freelance event planner.
Her husband, Adam, is an investment consultant for retirement plans and turned down a job offer with an Orlando firm that would have doubled his salary.

Greg Livingstone

"We had offices in Florida, China, Belgium and a smaller office just outside Atlanta. We knew we had to consolidate operations somewhere. We did evaluate Florida, Jersey City and Belgium. A lot of our people do international travel, and we have people coming in from our office in China and from Belgium on a regular basis. New Jersey made direct flights much easier. And the state of New Jersey had an interesting set of programs they provided to us. They have a clean energy manufacturing fund set up with a matching investment if we are developing business in a certain area. We were developing a business in the wind area. We were able to apply and receive $3.3 million. It allowed us to build a new division that is called Fluitec Wind. We were not able to get any similar deals in Belgium or Florida, certainly not on the wind side. We got about the same amount ($3 million) with the employment business incentive program. It is based on how many employees we anticipate hiring. We just hired three people this morning. By the end of the year we will have 42 employees."

Greg Livingstone, chief marketing officer for Fluitec International.
Fluitec pulled out of Florida in 2011 to consolidate operations in New Jersey.

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