by Jeff Zbar
Updated 3 yearss ago
The Greater Fort Lauderdale / Broward County Convention Center features 600,000 square feet of high-tech meeting and exhibit space. [Photo: Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau]
The claim that Fort Lauderdale is at the center of South Florida isn't far-fetched. It's about 27 miles from Las Olas Boulevard — arguably Fort Lauderdale's epicenter — to downtown Miami. It's 44 miles north to West Palm Beach.
Philosophically, it's much more, says Glenn Goldstein, a partner with Greenberg Traurig. The Miami-based law firm opened its Fort Lauderdale office in 1985.
"Fort Lauderdale used to be second-class status to Miami," he says. Today, it has "corporate transaction and litigation that rivals New York City."
Ed Pozzuoli agrees. As president of Tripp Scott, the venerable law firm whose founders — Norman Tripp and Jim Scott — have been fixtures in local and state business and politics for decades, Pozzuoli knows the city has much to offer.
"Fort Lauderdale has a lot of the opportunities of a big city," he says, "with a smaller town feel."
Don't let that feel fool you. Fort Lauderdale is home to some 150 corporate headquarters. The city proper has just shy of 200,000 residents, centered neatly amid a greater metro area of 5.4 million residents.
|AutoNation||$10.6 billion||Auto Sales|
|JM Family Enterprises||$8.4 billion||Automotive|
|Seacor Holdings||$1.7 billion||Marine Services|
|SFN Group||$1.7 billion||Employment Services|
|Citrix Systems||$1.6 billion||Computer Solutions|
|MEDNAX Inc.||$1.3 billion||Physician Services|
|Elizabeth Arden||$1.1 billion||Perfumes, Skin Care|
|Spirit Airlines||$700 million||Airline|
|Associated Grocers of Fla.||$650 million||Food Distributor|
|National Beverage Corp.||$575 million||Non-alcoholic Beverages|
|Source: Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance|
Business leaders here, though, want more. They seek to lure captains of industry who want a diverse, educated workforce, a good climate and lifestyle, and a strong education base upon which to build employees' skills, says Robin Ronne, managing director with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance's CEO Council.
So the council — a group of 21 area CEOs who each committed $50,000 annually for three years — hopes to build its brand and lure more domestic and international businesses. Marketing outreach debuted last year with a rebrand that changed the name of the organization from the Broward Alliance to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance. More outsiders know the city than the county by name, leaders surmised.
"We heard it from every one of the members," says Jordan Zimmerman, chairman of the local ad agency, Zimmerman, that created the campaign called "Life. Less Taxing." The agency itself ranks 14th nationally with more than $2.8 billion in annual billings. "Culture, lower taxes, more discretionary money, that's what the CEOs wanted for themselves and their workers."
Zimmerman Creative Partner Zev Auerbach collaborated with AutoNation's CEO Mike Jackson, City Furniture CEO Keith Koenig and Stiles Corp. Chairman Terry Stiles on the concept. The resulting three-year strategic blueprint for marketing and attracting headquarters highlights, among other points, Florida's rank as fifth nationwide among business-friendly tax climates, according to the Tax Foundation's 2010 State Business Tax Index.
"It's easy to get all the members to the table when wooing a prospect," says Bob Swindell, president/CEO of the Alliance. "That is the virtue of selflessness. If you have a vibrant community, it benefits everyone."
Image courtesy of Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau