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Why Florida? Reasons to Do Business in Florida

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Here, where talent thrives, innovation is encouraged, global connections are easily established and government policies support sound economic growth, people from all places and businesses of all kinds are finding their perfect homes. And you can, too, because Florida offers ...

1. A STRONG HISTORY OF INNOVATION

Florida is no stranger to innovation. In fact, our innovation legacy dates from 1565 when European explorers founded their first city in the New World at St. Augustine. Four centuries later, it was scientists in Florida who developed the technology that would carry a new generation of explorers to the moon. And it was Florida that Walt Disney chose as the site for his “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow,” the place we know today as EPCOT at Walt Disney World.

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Florida has long provided a nurturing environment for visionaries and people with “radical” ideas. Thomas Edison built a home and laboratory at Fort Myers; his good friend Henry Ford purchased the property next door. Two other Henrys — Flagler and Plant — built twin railroads on either side of the peninsula, thus providing easier access to Florida’s many charms and giving birth to a thriving tourist industry. And it was from Florida that journalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas launched the modern environmental movement in 1947. Her groundbreaking book, The Everglades: River of Grass, helped change public attitudes about conservation and, as a result, what many had considered a worthless swamp became a river worth saving.

Today, researchers at public universities and in private laboratories all across Florida are making discoveries in everything from disease prevention and cancer treatment to renewable energy and ocean reef conservation. According to a National Science Foundation report released in March 2009, research and development expenditures at Florida’s academic institutions topped $1.5 billion in 2007, the 10th highest among all U.S. states. Private research institutes such as Scripps, Burnham, Torrey Pines, SRI and Max Planck have found new “second” homes in Florida, giving rise to burgeoning clusters of like-minded innovators and entrepreneurs and attracting international attention. In 2009, Florida topped Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News’ list of U.S. Emerging Biotechnology Cluster hotspots, identified by industry leaders as one of the world’s most promising emerging biotech clusters.

Next page: A Thriving Talent Base

2. A THRIVING TALENT BASE

Florida’s workforce — 4th largest in the U.S. — is one of the nation’s best qualified and most culturally diverse. No Floridian lives more than 50 miles from an institution of postsecondary learning, and the number of Floridians with associate, bachelor and advanced degrees has increased at almost double the national rate since 2000; Florida is 11th among all states for workers with advanced degrees.

One of Florida’s greatest assets is the multiplicity of its labor pool. 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). Since the turn of the 21st century, Florida has gained more than half a million new residents originating from other countries, and about 80,000 new immigrants settle into the state each year. And with 27,000 students from outside the U.S. enrolled at its colleges and universities in the 2007-2008 academic year, Florida ranks 6th among U.S. states in number of international students.

Florida is particularly adept at growing talent, and no wonder. Eight of Florida’s colleges and universities were ranked among the best by U.S. News & World Report in its 2010 edition of “America’s Best Colleges.” University of Florida and Florida State University earned No. 15 and No. 48 ranks, respectively, on the Top Public Schools: National Universities list, while the University of Miami ranked No. 50 on the overall Best National Universities list. Among private colleges, Rollins College in Winter Park ranked 1st among 121 Southern master’s-level universities. Sarasota-based New College of Florida was the nation’s No. 5 ranked Public Liberal Arts College, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University retained its top ranking for the 10th year in a row for Best Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering Programs in the U.S.

High-tech employment is another Florida strength. According to TechAmerica’s 2009 Cyberstates report, Florida ranks 4th among America’s largest cyberstates with a total of 22,700 high-tech companies employing 280,300 high-tech workers and a payroll of close to $19 billion in 2007 (most recent data). The computer systems design and related services sector alone added 4,100 jobs.

The demand for skilled labor in Florida is answered by training programs designed to meet the needs of the state’s leading industries. 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 is one of only 10 states with a right-to-work provision in its constitution, and, at about 6.4%, Florida has one of the lowest unionization rates in the U.S. and the 3rd lowest in manufacturing (2.6%).

Next page: An Extensive Global Reach

3. AN EXTENSIVE GLOBAL REACH

Thanks to a prime geographic location and an environment of economic and political stability, Florida is at the center of trade and finance throughout the Western Hemisphere. In 2008, Florida recorded the highest trade surplus among all U.S. states, and international business — trade in goods and services plus foreign direct investment — accounted for about one-sixth of the state’s economy.

globeFlorida’s total international trade in 2008 reached $130.5 billion, fueled, in part, by a multicultural, multilingual workforce that is highly adept at facilitating international commerce. Combined exports of goods and services alone came to $84.6 billion, helping to sustain more than 1.1 million jobs throughout the state.

Florida remains the nation’s 3rd largest exporter of high-tech products; sales in 2008 totaled more than $14.6 billion, an increase of nearly $1.3 billion over the previous year. Florida also is a significant exporter of knowledge-based services, such as accounting, consulting, engineering, financial, legal, medical, telecommunications and transportation services. In 2008, these exports reached a record $30.3 billion and supported 425,000 Florida jobs. And at $54.3 billion in 2008, Florida-origin exports — goods produced or with significant value added in Florida — were up 21% over the previous year and supported an estimated 597,000 jobs.

At the same time, foreign direct investment (FDI) in Florida came to $39.3 billion in 2006 (most recent data), making this state the nation’s 9th largest recipient of FDI. Close to 2,400 international companies maintain a presence in Florida, representing 273,100 jobs. More than 80 foreign and domestic banks active in international trade and finance have offices in Florida, including six of the 10 largest banks in the world.

Watching the space shuttle
With one of the world’s most extensive multimodal transportation systems, including 20 commercial airports, 14 deepwater shipping ports, a vast network of highways and railway connections and Kennedy Space Center’s Spaceport, Florida’s reach spans the globe and beyond.

With one of the world’s most extensive multimodal transportation systems, including 20 commercial airports, 14 deepwater shipping ports, a vast network of highways and railway connections and Kennedy Space Center’s Spaceport, Florida’s reach spans the globe and beyond. Direct and/or one-stop air service is available to all key Latin American and Caribbean destinations, most major European cities and numerous destinations in the Asia/Pacific region.

Recognized as one of the top five telecommunications hubs in the world, Florida is a true global gateway. 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 LA Grid, facilitate research and development efforts. Florida also 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, and hosts a Consular Corps representing some 80 nations. And with a vast network of 10 international offices, seven trade offices located around the state and 15 country-specific websites, Enterprise Florida offers vital services for businesses looking to locate in Florida from overseas and for Florida-based businesses seeking to expand internationally.

Next page: A Business-Friendly Environment

4. A BUSINESS-FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT

Florida is an emerging force in today’s innovation economy in large part because of its sustained efforts 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.

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. And thanks to the interactive website MyFlorida.com, many business-oriented functions of state and local government are easily accessible.

Florida consistently ranks among the best states for business and entrepreneurship because of its pro-business state tax policies and competitive cost of doing business. Business dollars go further here given Florida’s limited corporate taxes and no personal income tax. And the availability of incentives for job creation, capital investment, new and incumbent worker training and location in designated rural and urban Enterprise Zones and Brownfield sites means that land, labor and capital are simply more affordable in Florida than in many comparable states.

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.

Small business owners and entrepreneurs find plenty to like about Florida, too. 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 assistance to entrepreneurs at every level, Florida is home to dozens of high-tech incubators, accelerators and university-based research hubs. At the Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research in Boca Raton, a collaborative effort of university tech transfer offices statewide, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs seeking investment opportunities can find information about Florida’s newest innovations, as well as business plans for startup companies needing venture capital support.

Next page: A World-Renowned Quality of Life

5. A WORLD-RENOWNED QUALITY OF LIFE

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. In fact, in a new national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project, three Florida cities ranked among America’s most desirable places to live: Orlando (4th), Tampa (5th) and Miami (12th).

Climate is a huge draw, of course. Average annual temperatures in Florida hover between 81 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. And our capacity to provide year-round recreational diversion is unsurpassed. Florida boasts 1,370 golf courses — more than any other state — and with 1,350 miles of sandy coastal shoreline and 11,761 square miles of inland waterways, there are plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing, snorkeling and other water-based activities.

The fabric of everyday life is tightly woven here, too. Affordable housing and sophisticated healthcare options are readily available, and our educational system is making significant strides. Florida snagged a spot?among the nation’s top 10 states in Education Week’s “2009 Quality Counts: Portrait of a Population.” In this report, which tracks state policies and performance across key areas of education, Florida ranked 4th?in the nation in the teaching profession category, 7th in student achievement and 10th overall.

It Takes a Village

Adding to Florida’s already unique quality of life is a team spirit in many Florida communities, and three are garnering recognition for their efforts. In August 2009, the Florida League of Cities bestowed its first-ever Florida Municipal Achievement Awards in three categories:

  • trophy Eustis (East Central/Space Coast Region) received the Florida City Spirit Award for its Fountain Green project, a portable sculpture park that can be moved from site to site for an instant “green-up.”
  • Tallahassee (Northwest Region) took the Florida Citizenship Award for its citizen involvement initiatives, which include Citizens’ Police and Fire Academies and a Neighborhood Energy Challenge to encourage conservation.
  • Tamarac (Southeast Region) earned the Environmental Stewardship Award for proactive conservation programs — like recycling and an organic community garden — that encourage citizens to act as environmental stewards.

Next page: A Knack for Turning Challenges Into Opportunities

6. A KNACK FOR TURNING CHALLENGES INTO OPPORTUNITIES

Gaston Cantens
Gaston Cantens, government relations vice president for Florida Crystals Corporation, displays the sugar cane waste (“bagasse”) that already fully powers his company’s operations plus 60,000 homes, and can be refined into ethanol. [Photo: Jessica Klewicki]
Florida has seen its share of challenges over the years — real estate booms and busts, weather-related incidents, election snafus — but we have always emerged from them with gusto, strength and new ideas. Today’s Floridians are reinventing agriculture, aviation/aerospace and tourism — the industries that first made this state strong — while incorporating new sectors into the mix, such as clean energy, life sciences, information technology, homeland security and emerging technologies (materials science, nanotechnology and marine science). Our public school system has gone from 31st in the U.S. to 10th in just three years, and our disaster preparedness and recovery program serves as a model for the nation. By turning citrus and sugar cane waste into ethanol, we’re making a name for ourselves in biofuels, and by harnessing the power of our most abundant natural resource — sunshine — we’re well on the way to positioning Florida as the world’s leader in solar energy generation.

Next page: A Proven Track Record of Success

7. A PROVEN TRACK RECORD OF SUCCESS

Florida has long been an economic powerhouse, and there’s every reason to believe that this state will keep surging forward. To put Florida’s momentum in perspective, consider this: If Florida was a country, it would have the 20th largest economy in the world. Florida has a higher standard of living, too. In terms of personal income, Florida ranks 1st in the Southeast, and its 2008 per capita income of $39,070 places it in the No. 2 position among all Southeastern states.

Despite the nationwide economic downturn, Florida continues to shine as one of the nation’s best states for business. In the 2009 Chief Executive survey of “best places for jobs and business growth,” Florida ranked No. 1 in the nation for workforce, among the top 10 in technology and innovation and access to capital and 3rd overall.

> For additional information about these and the many other advantages of doing business in Florida, visit eflorida.com.