Business leaders explain why Florida is more than what you think
Real talk: What comes to mind when someone suggests they’re thinking about starting a business in Florida?
Is it the gorgeous beaches, vibrant vacation spots and relaxed pace of life that you first picture when considering this southern state? That makes sense. Florida’s got those in spades. But what about a thriving tech industry, a competitive talent pool and global leaders in aerospace, manufacturing and cleantech? Bet you didn’t realize Florida has that too.
The truth is, many have misconceptions about the “Sunshine State” — especially as it relates to business. So we reached out to some tech industry business leaders to bust some of the biggest myths about Florida, one by one.
MYTH #1: There’s no young talent — it’s all retirees
“The local university and college system here is superb,” says Gary Breton, President and CEO of St. Petersburg-based company Aurora Semiconductor, who raves that these students are “aggressive, dedicated, high energy, and well educated.”
“[The schools are] superb at producing bright and grounded students — some of the best I have ever seen and met,” Breton says.
At the University of Florida, research and patenting play a big part in the growth of the university, where more than $700 million in funding is awarded every year, while schools like Embry Riddle and the University of West Florida boast top-notch training in STEM fields like aerospace and engineering.
MYTH #2: There are no opportunities for high-tech business
“We’re not just a regional company – we’re a global company,” says SATO President Mike Beedles, who recently opened an office in Fort Lauderdale.
“When we first got here, we wondered if there was going to be enough resources and talent. As we’ve dug in, we’ve found there’s plenty. It’s a competitive market.”
The combination of top-notch talent with impressive job creation and growing startups means Florida is poised to continue this positive trend onward for decades to come. There’s never been a better time to start, operate or open a business in Florida.
MYTH #3: It’s all theme parks and tourism
With major companies like Boeing, Siemens and GE positioned here, Florida is already poised as a world leader in the tech, aerospace and manufacturing sectors. The state is a friendly place for new endeavors and startups too, with a favorable business tax structure and more affordable land and labor when compared to competitive markets across the country.
On top of that, Florida has no personal income tax, which means employees can keep a little something extra in their pockets and invest it back into the local economy. That’s a win-win for business owners.
MYTH #4: Summers are too hot
For a lot of business owners, this is a major selling point for attracting customers and entertaining clients.
“In the winter, it’s never hard to get customers or partners to come down and visit us, that’s for sure,” says Steven Frey, VP of Technology at Ocean Optics, which is near Clearwater.
It doesn’t hurt that Florida has more than 1,300 golf courses either — a favorite for rubbing elbows with C-Suiters — plus ample opportunities for entertaining out-of-town guests.
When SATO was trying to determine where they wanted to expand the company, Fort Lauderdale won out in part because of Florida’s warm climate and the recreational activities it supports for their workforce.
“The quality of life and the quality of lifestyle for our employees was really important,” Beedles says. “We wanted to make sure we picked a location that was desirable and would allow our employees to have a work-life balance.”
MYTH #5: It’s far away from everything
“The fact that it’s a tourist destination actually helps it be a business destination too,” says Frey. “You can always get a flight here, usually direct.”
Florida’s natural resources have also helped businesses grow.
“Enviva is the world’s largest producer of wood pellets and the Florida panhandle is a terrific home for our largest manufacturing facility,” said Mark Haser, Director of Operations for Enviva’s Southeast Region. “The area’s abundant forests enable us to produce wood pellets sustainably and efficiently.”
It helps to be close by to so many ports, too.
“As an exporter, Enviva benefits enormously from our plant’s close proximity to the Port of Panama City.”
What’s more, Florida’s annual influx of tourists each year means that the state has been built to handle a large flow of people into and out of the state on a daily basis. Multi-modal transportation systems keep everyone moving smoothly throughout the state, too.
First appeared at Mashable