April 23, 2014

economic development

Broward Aims to Attract More Headquarters

Mike Vogel | 6/1/2009

Patriot Risk Management CEO Steven Mariano moved the 165-employee company
to Fort Lauderdale from the Charlotte, N.C., area in 2006.
[Photo: Eileen Escarda]

The Broward Alliance wants to attract more headquarters to add to the 150 the county already has — and with good reason: Headquarters jobs pay on average $80,000 and bring the foot-soldier volunteers who make cultural and community organizations go.

The trick will be pulling it off, judging by studies commissioned by the economic development group. Consulting firms Moran, Stahl & Boyer and Boyette Levy identified one weakness right off: Broward lacks name recognition even in Florida.

John Rhodes
Rhodes
In comparing greater Fort Lauderdale’s “brand” to that of 12 other cities, MS&B’s John Rhodes found such strengths as top-tier domestic and international air service, fantastic weather, no personal income tax and quality higher education institutions.

The area’s weaknesses, the studies say, include perceptions that hurricanes will disrupt business and that education is weak. And while county demographics in which Hispanics and blacks outnumber non-Hispanic whites will attract some, they may give others pause — including some white, non-Hispanic parents concerned about their kids being the minority at school.

To address the challenges, Rhodes says local families have to be paired with visiting families to help them understand school and housing options. The studies call for targeting companies in the area’s “sweet spot” — smallish (under 100 employees) headquarters. The area’s a natural for multinationals that want a Latin American-oriented regional headquarters and for international companies that want a U.S. headquarters presence. Boyette Levy says private companies should be targeted: Their CEOs can relocate more easily since they don’t have to answer to shareholders. The county also should offer incentives for smaller employers — as few as 10 jobs for corporate headquarters and others with a payroll of more than $1 million. And it should squeeze “greater Fort Lauderdale” into the alliance name.

Based on the number of headquarters, greater Fort Lauderdale is in the nation’s third-tier for headquarters cities. But because land is limited, the county is pricier than even second-tier Charlotte, N.C. Once commercial real estate and housing prices rise, the area may be unable to compete with cities that can sprawl. And, Rhodes says, “one catastrophic hurricane event will probably put you back five years.”

Tags: Politics & Law, Southeast, Business Services, Government/Politics & Law

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