Follow the Sun: Rebuilding Florida Business

2020 has seen a rise in suburban and cross-country relocation as city dwellers re-assess the needs of their family and focus on locales with flexible schooling options, lower corporate and personal tax rates, and homes with larger living space, segregated offices, fitness areas, and outdoor access. Already the third most populous state, Florida has seen an additional population boom during the pandemic. By 2030, the population is anticipated to swell to 26,000,000. To accommodate the growing population, industries will have to meet the new employment needs.

Florida continues to actively recruit innovative companies as well as talent. Miami has even termed its campaign, “Follow the Sun,” creating a $50,000 a year incentive to woo qualifying out-of-state business ventures.

Long-term educational initiatives have also been boosted to ensure a competitive local workforce for medium to high-skill positions. The Florida High Tech Corridor Council is an economic development initiative composed of three of the country’s largest research institutions: University of Central Florida, University of South Florida and University of Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced a statewide initiative to fast-track grant funds for the creation of fintech academies, while the Florida Atlantic University Brain Institute recently received a $780,000 grant to launch an innovative program targeting middle and high school students in Palm Beach County, with assistance from the Scripps Research Institute, and the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience.

 The strongest employment sectors in Florida have traditionally been in hospitality and tourism, agriculture, aerospace and aviation, international trade (especially to Latin America), and life sciences. While hospitality and tourism have suffered during the pandemic, this area should regain its prevalence as travel resumes and disposable incomes recover.

Strong growth continues in biomedical research, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and healthcare establishments. Nearly 19,000 Floridians work in this industry today. Florida ranks second in the United States for FDA registered medical device manufacturing facilities and is home to 260 biotech companies. According to the Palm Beach Business Development Board, twenty companies have chosen to locate to Palm Beach County, with two Life Science incubators/accelerators on the horizon and plans to host an additional 50 start-up companies in the field. Currently over 700 companies in Palm Beach County are engaged in R&D, the manufacturing of biotechnologies, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals, or the environmental and biological sciences. ADMA Biologics in Boca Raton operates one of the few plasma fractionation facilities in the United States and employs more than 350 people.

Data services, software companies, disruptive technology, gaming and fintech companies are also on the rise. Miami is considered a magnet for innovative fintech start-ups with its proximity to Latin America.  Additionally, Florida is home to the third-largest cluster of insurance and banking companies in the U.S., making it a perfect location to launch a fintech venture. Palm Beach County has recently attracted several international tech companies such as Misfits Gaming, an e-sports platform, Nano Dimension, an electronics fabrication firm, and V2Techs, a Dutch maritime tech company.

There are currently more than 19,000 manufacturing businesses operating in Florida employing more than 330,000 workers. The state has passed a permanent sales tax exemption on manufacturing machinery and equipment. Much of the manufacturing job growth has been in the boat-building industry, aerospace and motor vehicle parts. According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, for every ten jobs created in Florida’s export-oriented manufacturing, twelve more jobs are created in transportation, warehousing and retail.

The financial service sector has witnessed significant growth due to the state’s favorable corporate tax structure. Miami is already a financial hub for Latin America. The Brickell financial center has the second largest concentration of international banks outside of New York. Since 2019, seventy financial service companies relocated from the tax-heavy northeast to Palm Beach County, with countless others deciding to move corporate headquarters or set up satellite offices, including recently Elliott Management, a $41 billion investment firm, Icahn Enterprises, Blackstone Group, and Starwood Property Trust.

With each company relocation, more high- and medium-skilled jobs are added to our local economy. And as housing needs increase, additional employment opportunities and income will be generated in real estate planning, development, and construction. Homes prices are surging in South Florida with some cities seeing gains upwards of 44% while the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes enjoyed a 13.2% increase this past year.

While the pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our lives and devastated local communities, the continued growth in Florida, both in population and industry, will position this state favorably for long-term sustainable economic recovery. The future is looking bright for the sunshine state. It’s high time we all follow the sun.