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September 24, 2018

Up Front - The Publisher's Column

A warm welcome to Florida

Andrew P. Corty | 5/25/2016

Business is booming in Lee County and Fort Myers, with Fortune 500 company Hertz leading the way. But Hertz is just the tip of the iceberg. More companies will follow as site selectors have now taken notice of the area.

Lee County

Those making corporate decisions will appreciate the airport connections, the university with 15,000 students, the work ethic of area residents, the restaurant scene, and, of course, the environment — from warm weather to beaches to nature preserves. And the county — with nearly 700,000 residents — is attracting a younger population of working professionals. See the special section.

Florida Trend will peer into northwest Florida (from Pensacola to Panama City) in the August issue and separately at Miami-Dade in the October issue.

Education: Florida’s universities and colleges are worthy of our support and admiration, not only for the teaching that goes on there, but also for the research that moves Florida forward. See the list Florida’s public and private schools.

Two separate features highlight lesser-known schools.

The first focuses on the Joint Special Operations University near MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, where the 100-plus faculty members train elite forces such as Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets. JSOU teaches our soldiers to expand their minds to better react to today’s complex world and international environment.

The second spotlights Full Sail University, a for-profit school in Winter Park with a focus on digital arts. Faculty teach topics like music production, game development, animation, cinematography and simulation, all of which fit neatly into the Orlando scene.

The University of Central Florida is also heavily in this space with a focus on the advanced levels. A dozen years ago, UCF established the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy. The school produces top talent for Orlando companies such as Electronic Arts-Tiburon, which employs close to 1,000 in the region.

These examples prove the need for a strong connection between education and economic development. Companies will not move to Florida if we don’t offer a strong system that turns out talented individuals at every level, from manufacturing to nursing and from finance to the sciences. The need to fully fund higher education has never been greater.

Commercial real estate: Cushman & Wakefield’s Florida President, Larry Richey, came to our office recently to discuss commercial real estate in Florida.

Our Economic Backbone feature confirms Richey’s claim that the sector is thriving in all parts of Florida.

Retail demand is strong, more industrial space is under construction, agricultural land is flipping, and the apartment/condo sector is hot. Only the office sector, which Richey noted is the most difficult to finance, is seeing any challenges. There simply isn’t enough space, especially in the major markets where tenants look for several thousand feet or several floors of space rather than a whole building.

Balancing the surge in new companies is the modern idea of less space per employee: Richey estimates that many companies want to cut a fourth off the traditional 250-square-foot per person calculation.

— Andy Corty

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