by Janet Ware
Updated 2 yearss ago
The right talent, right facilities and right attitude keep Florida’s innovation economy surging ahead.
Why come to Florida? Just ask the 18.3 million people who already call Florida home. Or the hundreds more who move in every day.
Many are drawn here by sun, sand and sparkling blue water. But they soon realize the added benefits of the state’s innovative spirit, ready workforce, business-friendly policies, global connectivity and exceptional quality of life.
Florida is simply a great place to live, work and do business. And while we’ve summed it up in 10 top reasons, we encourage you to read on and learn why you should consider creating, investing or expanding your business here.
1 Technology Leadership
For two years in a row, the publication Fierce Biotech has ranked Florida among the top five regions in the world for attracting biotech businesses. Since 2006, research institutes with names like Scripps, Burnham, Torrey Pines, SRI and Max Planck have found new homes in Florida, and they’re attracting the attention of other innovative companies looking to relocate or expand.
Chelsea Smartt, an assistant professor of entomology, studies disease-transmitting mosquitoes in a University of Florida laboratory. In 2007, public and private sector investments in research at 13 Florida universities rose by nearly $77 million to reach a total of more than $1.6 billion. [Photo courtesy of University of Florida]
Florida has a significant and growing presence in many cutting-edge economy sectors, including: Clean Energy, Life Sciences, Information Technology, Aviation and Aerospace and Homeland Security and Defense.
2 Global Gateway
Florida is the strategic and economic center of the Americas. A prime geographic location, plus economic and political stability, have put Florida at the center of trade and finance throughout the Western Hemisphere. In 2007, Florida’s total international trade grew to $115 billion, fueled, in part, by a multicultural, multilingual workforce that is highly adept at facilitating international commerce.
In 2006 (most recent data), the total value of holdings by foreign-affiliated companies in Florida reached $39.3 billion, employing 273,100 Floridians. Among the U.S. states, Florida ranks 9th in total value of inward foreign direct investment and 5th in total employment by foreign-affiliated firms.
Miami is second only to New York as a U.S center for international banking. More than 70 foreign and domestic banks active in international trade and finance have offices in Florida, including six of the 10 largest banks in the world.
Florida’s combined exports of goods and services amounted to more than $72 billion in 2007, helping to sustain more than 1.1 million jobs. In addition, Florida ranks 6th in the nation in state-origin exports (those actually produced or with significant value added in the state), which reached nearly $45 billion in 2007. Florida is a diversified global exporter of knowledge-intensive services too, such as accounting, consulting, engineering, legal, medical, telecommunications and transportation services. Florida’s services exports reached $27 billion in 2007.
3 Entrepreneurial Environment
Small Business Survival Index 2008 ranks Florida as one of the nation’s friendliest states for entrepreneurs, and the U.S. Small Business Administration puts Florida among the most highly efficient states in fostering the birth of new businesses.
In addition to 34 Small Business Development Centers throughout the state and the Disney Entrepreneur Center in Orlando, all of which provide one-on-one counseling, training and other assistance to entrepreneurs at every level, Florida is home to dozens of high-tech incubators, accelerators and university-based research hubs. At the new Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research, a collaborative effort of university tech transfer offices statewide, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs looking for potentially lucrative investment opportunities can find information about Florida’s newest innovations, as well as business plans for start-up companies seeking venture capital support.
4 Global Connectivity
With one of the world’s most extensive multimodal transportation systems, including 19 major commercial airports, 14 deepwater shipping ports, a vast network of highways and railway connections and Kennedy Space Center’s one-of-a-kind Spaceport, Florida’s global connections are difficult to surpass.
The Network Access Point (NAP) in Miami serves as a major switching station for Internet traffic coming to and from Latin America, while other high-speed networks, such as the Florida LambdaRail and LAGrid, facilitate research and development efforts. In addition, Florida has some of the fastest and most widely available networks for high-speed and wireless connectivity.
Florida is the second most active participant in Sister City/State programs in the United States, underscoring its worldwide connections and open business and cultural environment. And with a vast network of 14 international offices, seven trade offices located around the state and 15 country-specific websites, Enterprise Florida offers many vital services for businesses looking to locate in Florida from overseas and for Florida-based businesses looking to expand internationally.
5 Business Climate
Florida consistently ranks among the top pro-business states in the nation because of its business-friendly tax codes and commitment to providing incentives for job creation, capital investment, new and incumbent worker training and location in designated rural and urban Enterprise Zones and Brownfield sites.
Recognizing that businesses need certainty, predictability and efficiency, Florida’s regulatory agencies and local governments are committed to providing quicker, less costly and more predictable permitting processes for significant economic development projects without reducing environmental standards. Assistance in accessing enterprise bonds, micro-loans and venture capital further contributes to Florida’s reputation as a great place to do business.
6 Workforce Talent
Florida was named the No. 1 state for workforce in CNBC’s 2008 “America’s Top States for Business” study, which rated the workforce in all 50 states on such criteria as education level, number of available workers and relative success of worker training programs in placing participants in jobs. Florida is one of only 10 states with a right-to-work provision in its state constitution, and, at 5.9%, Florida has one of the lowest unionization rates in the country and the 2nd lowest unionization rate in manufacturing (2.8%).
No Floridian lives more than 50 miles from an institution of postsecondary learning, and it shows. The number of Floridians with associate, bachelor and advanced degrees has increased at almost double the national rate since 2000, and Florida is 11th among all states for workers with advanced degrees.
Florida’s workforce is also one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse in the nation. More than 3.2 million Florida residents were born outside the U.S., and 4.4 million are speakers of languages other than English. Best represented are speakers of Spanish (3.2 million), Indo-European languages (875,000) and Asia and Pacific Islander languages (218,000).
The demand for skilled labor in Florida is answered by many training programs designed to address industry needs. Customized programs and incentives, such as Quick Response Training, Incumbent Worker Training and the industry-specific Banner Centers provide skilled labor to employers in less time and at lower costs. Florida’s workforce training and incentive programs have been ranked 3rd best in the country by Expansion Management magazine.
7 Business-Friendly Government
Florida has a pro-business, pro-technology agenda for policy-making and business climate improvement. Thanks to the interactive website MyFlorida.com, many business-oriented functions of state and local government are easily accessible online.
Tort reform has been a priority for Florida’s business-friendly leaders. Recent actions include the elimination of joint and several liability, rate reductions in workers’ compensation insurance and class-action suit reform.
Many business sector associations, including Florida Aviation Aerospace Alliance, BioFlorida, Florida Defense Alliance, IT Florida, Space Florida, Florida High Tech Corridor Council and Florida Economic Development Council, work tirelessly to ensure that Florida’s legislators remain up-to-date on issues impacting global competitiveness.
Harmony Development’s “environmentally intelligent” community in Osceola County is an example of a growing commitment to sustainability and investment in Florida’s future. [Photo courtesy of Harmony Development Company]
8 World-Renowned Quality of Life
The combination of sunshine, outstanding amenities and economic opportunity has helped put Florida at the top of Harris Poll’s “most desirable places to live” since the survey’s inception. And this year, Florida can boast the largest number of cities on Relocate-America’s 2008 “100 Top Places to Live,” the only list determined by statistics and feedback from people who live, work and play in these communities.
Already one of the world’s top travel destinations, Florida is a natural choice for permanent residence by visitors who subscribe to a “play here, stay here” philosophy. Climate is a huge draw with average annual temperatures hovering between 81 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Florida has 1,370-plus golf courses — more than any other state — and, with 1,350 miles of sandy coastal shoreline, plus 11,761 square miles of inland waterways, there are plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing, snorkeling and other water-based activities.
9 Economic Development Partnerships
More than any other state, Florida’s economic development goals and initiatives have been created and embraced as a statewide vision. Economic development organizations throughout the state work together to help existing and prospective businesses find the right location(s) to match their needs.
Florida is one of the emerging forces in the innovation economy in large part because officials have made a concerted effort to create the right conditions for creative, knowledge-based businesses to thrive. The state is strategic about its economic development activities, which include funding research and development, attracting venture capital, building state-of-the-art infrastructure, fostering innovative high-tech firms and growing a qualified workforce.
10 Growth Economy
While many regions struggle to maintain the status quo, Florida’s economic engine keeps surging forward. To put things in perspective, consider this: if Florida were a country, it would have the 19th largest economy in the world.
Florida has the 4th largest Gross State Product and is the 8th largest economy in the Western Hemisphere. And with 12 cities named to Economy.com’s “Business Vitality Index,” Florida has more than double the number of any other state.
In terms of personal income, Florida tops the Southeast, and its 2007 per capita income of $38,444 places it at No. 2 in the Southeast and No. 20 nationwide.
For More Information
To learn more about how the right talent, facilities and can-do attitude are coming together to fuel the innovation economy in Florida, see the special report Florida Innovation.