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March 1, 2015

Northwest: Right Time, Right Place

This region grows new business with solid connections and plenty of room.

Northwest Florida
Demographics for the Northwest Region can be found at
Business Florida's interactive map of Florida.

Companies choosing to expand in northwest Florida enjoy the best of two worlds — business sites with global connections and a family-friendly setting with great views like this off the Gulf Coast at Destin.

Family Appeal

Population in the Tallahassee metro area is on the rise, according to University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. In Wakulla County alone, the population jumped 3.5% from April 2008 to 2009. “We have people moving here to raise families,” says Tallahassee real estate appraiser Greg Lane. “I think people come here to stay.”

Regional Assets

• Chipola College
• Florida A&M University
• Florida State University
• Gulf Coast Community College
• Northwest Florida State College
• Pensacola Junior College
• Tallahassee Community College
• University of West Florida

• Northwest Florida Regional Airport
• Panama City-Bay County
International Airport
• Pensacola Regional Airport
• Tallahassee Regional Airport

• Port Panama City
• Port of Pensacola
• Port St. Joe Marina

Michael Murdoch could have chosen to locate his information technology company, AppRiver, pretty much anywhere in the world since the business he’s in knows no geographic boundaries. But after spending time in Atlanta, then Charlotte, N.C., Murdoch chose Gulf Breeze, a town of fewer than 6,000 residents in Santa Rosa County.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” says Murdoch, who partnered with Chief Technology Officer Joel Smith nearly eight years ago to found AppRiver. “I live in paradise, and I have a business that is global.”

AppRiver offers spam and virus protection to more than 35,000 subscribers worldwide. Since opening in 2002, the firm has maintained a 97% customer retention rate, and Murdoch expects close to $29 million in revenue for 2009.

The majority of AppRiver’s skilled employees have come directly from classrooms at the University of West Florida and Pensacola Junior College (PJC). But when the firm needs to hire from outside, Murdoch says “recruiting efforts are easier once prospective employees experience Gulf Breeze — its natural beauty and quality of life. It’s what I like to call a ‘lifestyle by design.’”

The pro-business environment is another plus. As a targeted high value-added industry, AppRiver received a Qualified Target Industry (QTI) Tax Refund from the state of Florida in exchange for creating high wage jobs. In addition, the company partnered with PJC, which teaches Microsoft certification courses on-site at the “AppRiver University” training facility.

“There’s a pro-business environment here — from Tallahassee down to the local level — that makes it easy to start a business,” says Murdoch. “I don’t know if I’d get the same level of help somewhere else outside of Florida.”

Tags: Business Florida, Northwest

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