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Top Reasons to Relocate or Expand in Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County
In addition to being ranked among the top locations in the country for entreprenuerial activity, Greater Fort Lauderdale is home to a number of corporate headquarters and major operations including American Express, AutoNation, Alcatel-Lucent, Citrix Systems, DHL Americas, Embraer, Ford, Microsoft and Motorola, just to name a few.
A Strong Workforce
Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County's diverse and well educated workforce can meet the needs of any business. In fact, the State of Florida has been ranked among the top three states for workforce in the nation, according to CNBC's America's Top States for Business.
Top 10 Reasons to do Business in Florida
You know about the sun, sand and sparkling blue waters, of course. But you may not know what makes Florida so much more than a spectacular vacation destination.
Starting, locating and expanding a business in Florida makes good sense. To learn why, read on. Then come see for yourself why Florida is more than a place to play, it’s a place you should stay.
1) A Leader in Innovation
All across the state, the move is on to address present and future power demands with innovative solutions and renewable alternatives. With more than $2 billion invested in solar power to date, Florida is on track to become the nation’s 2nd largest producer of solar energy.
In October 2009, Florida Power & Light (FPL) opened the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, the world’s largest photovoltaic solar facility. Coming soon are FPL’s Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, the world’s first hybrid solar facility, and the Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center at Kennedy Space Center.
Elsewhere in Florida, Progress Energy customers who elect to temporarily cycle off power to select electrical systems in their homes during periods of peak demand can automatically contribute the money they save to the “SolarWise for Schools” fund. Created by Progress Energy Florida, this special fund is used to purchase photovoltaic systems for Florida schools and to provide resources for solar energy education.
Other energy sources are under development, too. Florida companies are growing algae for its oil and turning citrus and sugar cane waste into ethanol to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. And by har-nessing the power of the Gulf Stream just off our Atlantic coast, researchers at Florida Atlantic University are testing cleaner, more efficient ways to generate electricity.
2. Global Hub
Florida's total merchandise trade (exports plus imports) totaled $103 billion in 2009. Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for 60% of the state's total merchandise trade, followed by Europe and Asia at 16% and 15%, respectively.
Florida remains the nation's 3rd largest exporter of high-tech products in the U.S.; sales in 2009 totaled more than $13.4 billion. Florida also is a significant exporter of knowledge-based services, such as accounting, consulting, engineering, financial, legal, medical, telecommunications and transportation services. In 2009, these exports reached $27.9 billion and supported 390,000 Florida jobs. And at $47 billion in 2009, Florida-origin exports — goods produced or with significant value added in Florida — accounted for 23% of all U.S. exports to Latin America and the Caribbean, higher than any other state.
China and Japan are the top importers into the state, accounting for a combined total of more than $9 billion worth of imports coming into Florida in 2009. Motor vehicles are the No. 1 import to Florida. Much of the international commerce coming into and out of the U.S. travels through Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs). In Florida, international businesses have access to the second largest network in the nation. While primarily located in or around the state's international airports and seaports, FTZs also function in inland areas such as Ocala, Sebring, Sanford and Homestead. These zones allow tariff-free value to be added to foreign goods before they are shipped on to other countries.
At the same time, foreign direct investment (FDI) in Florida came to $33.6 billion in 2007 (most recent data), making this state the nation's 9th largest recipient of FDI. In all, 1,500 foreign-affiliated companies operate in Florida from about 2,400 individual locations around the state. And with a total of 245,800 jobs supported by majority foreign-owned companies, Florida ranks 6th in the nation in FDI employment and 1st in the Southeast.
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.
With one of the world's most extensive multi-modal transportation systems, including 21 commercial airports, 14 deepwater shipping ports, a vast network of highways and railway connections and two spaceports, 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 78 nations. And with a vast network of 12 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.
3. Workforce Talent
Florida's labor pool is particularly strong in high-tech industries and international trade. According to TechAmerica's 2010 Cyberstates report, Florida ranks 4th among America's largest cyberstates with a total of 24,500 high-tech companies employing 292,300 high-tech workers and a payroll of $19.9 billion in 2008 (most recent data). In addition, international business supports nearly 1.2 million — roughly one in seven — Florida jobs.
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 (865,000), and Asia and Pacific Islander languages (239,000).
The demand for skilled labor in Florida is answered by many 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.
Companies that choose Florida for startup, expansion or relocation will find a fully coordinated system of workforce services to fill their needs. Under the “Employ Florida” umbrella are two partners at the state level: Workforce Florida Inc., which oversees and monitors the administration of the state's workforce policy, programs and services, and the Agency for Workforce Innovation, which administers workforce funds, houses the Office of Labor Market Statistics and serves as the designated U.S. Census data center for Florida. At the local level, 24 regional workforce boards with significant business representation implement workforce programs in their communities, including the oversight of nearly 100 One-Stop Centers across the state, where services are delivered directly to employers and job seekers.
For the second time in 2010, CNBC rated Florida's workforce No. 1 in the nation on its annual America's Top States for Business rankings, and considering the emphasis this state puts on preparing a qualified workforce, it's no surprise. Florida was among the first states to recognize the link between early childhood education and workplace success by incorporating a voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) program into its statewide public school system. Within the statewide K-12 system, workforce preparation is pivotal; reading and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) are curriculum priorities.
By 2014, 15 of the 20 fastest-growing jobs in America will require substantial math or science preparation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor; Florida is wasting no time bringing its workforce up to par. Under new high school graduation requirements signed into law in 2010, high school students will be required to take tougher science and math courses — and pass end-of-course exams — to earn their diplomas. Every school district in Florida has at least one high school-based career and professional academy, where completion of the rigorous academic curriculum can mean a standard high school diploma, the highest available industry certifications and, in some cases, college credits. High school diplomas in Florida must show a student's specific major area of interest, as well as designations for completion of accelerated college credit courses, career education certification and, when applicable, the Florida Ready to Work Credential, which assures employers that he/she has the skills needed for successful on-the-job performance.
Whether preparing young people for further education or direct entry into the workforce, or helping adults acquire the skills they need to assume new jobs in clean energy, life sciences, information technology or other fast-growing industry sectors, Florida's 28 state and community colleges play a critical role in workforce readiness. More than 845,000 students are served annually by Florida's state and community colleges at 61 campuses and 176 sites.
Florida's state and community colleges offer nearly 800 associate of arts, associate of science and associate of applied science degrees and about 500 certificate programs; 14 of the 28 schools are approved to offer baccalaureate degrees in fields such as nursing, teacher education, information technology and health services administration. For the 8th year in a row, Florida community colleges ranked among America's top degree producers, awarding more than 52,000 associate degrees during the 2008-2009 academic year.
Florida is home to 11 public universities where enrollment tops 300,000; another 120,000 students attend private, independent colleges and universities. The state boasts six major medical schools, two of which — at the University of Central Florida and at Florida International University — opened in fall 2009. Beginning in fall 2011, Florida Atlantic University and Scripps Florida will combine forces to offer a joint M.D./Ph.D. program. And four of the top five on Bloomberg Businessweek's ranking of undergraduate business programs offering the best return on investment — annual tuition spent compared to median base salary at graduation — are in Florida: University of Central Florida, University of Florida, Florida International University and Florida State University.
Florida's universities and colleges not only produce some of the world's most talented, highly skilled professionals, they also rank among the nation's top performers of research and development and play a vital role in commercializing key advanced technologies. In 2008, researchers at Florida's 13 largest universities received $1.86 billion in research funding from outside sources, up $68.6 million from 2007.
The Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) is an association of 28 private, accredited and not-for-profit schools that are Florida-based. With more than 120,000 students and classes at 108 sites throughout the state, ICUF schools turn out one-third of all college degrees awarded in Florida, including 26% of bachelor's degrees and 56% of first professional degrees (doctors, lawyers, dentists, pharmacists and optometrists).
Six of Florida's colleges and universities were ranked among the nation's best in U.S. News & World Report's 2011 edition of “America's Best Colleges.” University of Miami ranked No. 47 on the overall Best National Universities list, along with the University of Florida at No. 53. Among Best Regional Universities in the South, Rollins College in Winter Park took the No. 1 position; on that same list were Stetson University in DeLand at No. 3, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Melbourne at No. 10 and the University of Tampa at No. 26. In addition, 15 Florida colleges and universities are among The Princeton Review's list of 133 Best Southeastern Colleges.
Additional educational options are available at career schools and for-profit colleges where classes tend to be small and the curriculum heavily career focused.
4. Entrepreneurial Environment
Thirty-five Small Business Development Centers throughout the state and the Disney Entrepreneur Center in Orlando provide one-on-one counseling, training and assistance to entrepreneurs at every level. In addition, dozens of high-tech incubators, accelerators and university-based research parks provide flexible, low-cost space and offer a variety of business development services to startup and young companies. Small businesses seeking to tap into funds available through U.S. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs may receive assistance with proposal development through Enterprise Florida's Phase 0 program.
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 looking for investment opportunities can find information about Florida's newest innovations, as well as business plans for startup companies seeking venture capital support. Founded in 2007 to promote research at Florida's public universities, the institute's scope has since been expanded to other non-profit research institutions, including SRI International, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Kennedy Space Center, Scripps Florida, the University of Miami, the National Center of Excellence for Simulation and Training and others.
5. Business Climate
Competitive cost: Land, labor and capital are more affordable in Florida than in most comparable states. Businesses in certain targeted industries as well as companies looking for workforce training and road improvements may qualify for specific incentive programs. Specialized, site-specific incentives may be available to businesses that elect to locate in rural and urban Enterprise Zones or on Brownfield sites.
Pro-business tax structure: Business dollars go further in Florida because of limited corporate taxes and no personal income tax. In addition, Florida imposes no property tax on business inventories or goods-in-transit (up to 180 days) and no sales/use tax on goods manufactured or produced in Florida for export outside the state. Sales and use tax exemptions also are available for specific industries and circumstances; for example, machinery and equipment used predominately in research and development is exempt as is electricity used in manufacturing.
Expedited permitting: Because Florida understands the importance businesses place on certainty, predictability and efficiency in government regulations, the state's regulatory agencies and local governments continually work to provide quicker, less costly and more predictable permitting processes for significant economic development projects while maintaining high environmental standards.
Available resources: Florida offers access to capital from a variety of private sources, including venture capital companies and financial institutions, as well as publicly funded federal and state programs. A newly launched pilot program of the Florida Economic Gardening Institute provides resources and tools for second-stage growth companies seeking to penetrate new markets and refine their business models.
6. Multi-modal Connections
A multi-modal transportation infrastructure of highways, railways, seaports, airports and spaceports enables companies to gain quick access to markets and thereby reduce their bottom-line costs.
Roads: A 12,066-mile state highway system and nearly 110,000 miles of other public roads offer easy access to regional and national markets and ready links to airports and seaports. And the condition of Florida's roads is among the nation's best, according to a study released in May 2009 by the American Association of State Highways and Transportation. Florida tied for third — just behind Georgia and Nevada — for roads in good shape.
Rail: 2,796 miles of main route rail lines connect the state's railroads to major business centers and distribution nodes. The Florida rail transportation system comprises 15 line-haul railroad and terminal or switching companies, which includes two Class I Railroads, two regional railroads, 10 local railroads and one railroad specializing in switching and terminals. The proposed SunRail commuter train system will carry passengers through Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties in Florida's East Central/Space Coast starting in 2012, and a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa is planned to begin service in 2015.
Airports: Florida's 21 commercial airports offer non-stop scheduled service to more than 120 domestic and international destinations. In fact, Florida offers more direct flights to Latin American and Caribbean destinations than all other U.S. airports combined. With 33.9 million passengers in 2009, Miami International ranked as Florida's busiest airport and 12th busiest in the United States, closely followed by Orlando International in 13th place nationwide with 33.7 million passengers. Florida's commercial airports handle more than 9% of the nation's air cargo, representing an economic impact of $33.4 billion per year.
Seaports: Florida's 14 deepwater seaports support thousands of jobs and generate billions in economic impact. In 2008, Florida's seaports moved $82.5 billion worth of goods from countries throughout the world, employed more than 36,000 workers and accounted for 54% of all U.S. cruise embarkations. Every Florida business is within 90 miles of at least one Florida port, many of which feature roll on/off or gantry crane loading areas and dockside cold storage, plus dry dock, bulk liquid cargo and bulk dry cargo facilities. In anticipation of projected freight increases due to completion of the Panama Canal expansion project in 2014, many Florida ports are enlarging their container capacity, cranes and berths to accommodate post-Panamax ships.
Spaceports: Florida is home to two of only eight commercially licensed spaceports in the United States, including the site of the first U.S. commercial launch. Florida hosts commercial, civil and military space operations, with primary emphasis on payload processing, launch operations and spaceport range technologies.
7. Quality of Life
A growing number of professionals in service-oriented and knowledge-intensive sectors of the economy — the so-called “creative class” — place tremendous importance on sense of place, opting to live in communities that provide more than employment opportunities but also amenities such as access to arts and culture, public spaces, recreation, social interaction, authenticity and distinctiveness. Florida fills the bill with its rich array of diverse communities and assets such as:
Great climate: Average annual temperatures between 81 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Outstanding education: A public school system ranked 10th in the nation, plus at least one post-secondary educational institution — public or private university, state or community college and/or technical training center — within 50 miles of every Floridian.
Economic value: No personal income tax and, in many ways, a cost of living below that of other comparable states with similar growth and in-migration rates. In addition, programs are continually under development at the state and local levels to ensure that housing prices remain competitive and affordable for workers.
Plenty to see and do: More than 1,350 golf courses; 2,300 miles of tidal shoreline; 11,000 miles of rivers, streams and waterways; 161 state parks spanning 700,000 acres; some of the world’s biggest and best theme parks; a thriving arts and culture scene; unique shopping opportunities; world-class sporting events.
Sophisticated healthcare: More than 300 general medical and surgical hospitals, including the facilities ranked No. 1 in the nation for ophthalmology (Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami), No. 17 for gastroenterology (Cleveland Clinic Florida) and No. 19 for cancer care (H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Tampa) on the U.S. News & World Report 2010-2011 list of “America’s Best Hospitals.”
No wonder, then, that in a 2009 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).
8. Business-Friendly Government
Tort reform has long 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 and Space Florida, work tirelessly to ensure that Florida's legislators remain up-to-date on issues impacting global competitiveness.
Florida remains one of only 10 states with a right-to-work provision in its state constitution. Florida also has one of the lowest unionization rates in the country (6.4%) and the third lowest unionization rate in manufacturing (2.6%)
Headquartered in Orlando with offices in Miami and Tallahassee, EFI provides site selection services, demographic and incentives data, trade leads, and other information related to business startup, expansion and relocation. In addition, EFI coordinates introductions to a wide range of economic development partners throughout the state, including local and regional economic development offices, workforce and industry organizations, educational institutions and others interested in helping businesses make the right location choices. Companies seeking to become involved in global business will find more specialized assistance at seven field offices throughout the state and at EFI's international offices in 12 foreign countries.
Businesses seeking to start up or expand in Florida soon discover that the word “partnership” encompasses far more than economic development entities. One example is the Florida High Tech Corridor Council (FHTCC), whose mission is to attract, retain and grow high-tech industry and the workforce to support it within a 23-county region served by the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida. The council provides a conduit for linking its university partners with more than 20 regional and local economic development organizations, 14 state and community colleges and representatives of high-tech businesses, and its efforts have not gone unnoticed. FHTCC recently took top honors in the International Economic Development Council's Excellence in Economic Development Awards under the category of “Partnerships with Educational Institutions.” See the full list of economic development organizations that stand ready to assist you with startup, relocation or expansion plans.
10. Visionary Development
Florida has the 4th largest Gross State Product and is the 8th largest economy in the Western Hemisphere. Florida has a higher standard of living, too. With a per capita income of $39,893 (2008 data), Florida ranks second among all Southeastern states.
Florida remains a strong 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.
Over the course of 2009, hundreds of Floridians came together in small groups throughout the state to develop the 2010-2015 Roadmap to Florida's Future, the statewide strategic plan for economic development. More than 1,500 Floridians — representing business, industry/trade associations, international commerce, education and workforce, transportation, arts and culture, government, economic development organizations, and others — provided input to help shape Florida's economic future. For more information, visit www.eflorida.com/roadmap.
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