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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 2 months ago

Is Florida losing its headquarters mojo?

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Florida loses out on one headquarters project, and then loses an actual headquarters.

Former Florida Gov. Rick Scott famously spent some time the past eight years calling businesses in Ohio, Michigan and other snow belt states during heavy storms.

The pitch was simple: Ditch the snow and relocate your corporate headquarters to Florida, where the winters are pleasant — and there’s no state income tax.

That HQ trick, minus the snow and gubernatorial phone call, has now been played on Florida. For starters, the state’s multiple bids to land the ballyhooed Amazon HQ2 project fizzled. Only Miami made the final 20. Other proposals, from Tampa, Orlando and north Manatee County, didn’t gain any traction with the online retail giant.

Florida took a less publicized, but still tough hit, in early December. That’s when the PGA of America announced plans to jettison its headquarters for the past 50 years, Palm Beach Gardens, for a new home in Frisco, Texas, outside Dallas. The PGA, according to a statement, will hire about 100 people at its new home, but, just as important as the jobs is its commitment to anchor a $500 million, 600-acre mixed-used development. Another coup for Frisco: The PGA committed to holding two PGA Championships, a pair of KPMG Women’s PGA Championships and potentially a Ryder Cup in golf-mad Frisco.

While any headquarters search will have one winner and lots of losers, a deeper look at the PGA departure, for any Florida economic development cheerleader, has to sting. The COO of the 29,000-member golfers’ organization, Darrell Crall, tells CoStar News in a blog post that the group received bids from more than 200 cities. A strong business community, highly educated workforce and strong quality of life, in addition to proximity to a major airport, put Frisco at the top, he says. “As our board of directors decided we should consider a potential relocation of our headquarters,” Crall tells CoStar, “we searched the entire country and Frisco came up as the leader at every turn."

Of course, while no PGA official alluded to it in public comments, incentives and subsidies must have played a role. The partnership between the PGA and Frisco includes a diverse set of performance-based incentives worth more than $160 million. Entities funding the incentives, the release from the PGA states, include the city of Frisco, the Frisco Economic Development Corp., the Frisco Community Development Corp. and the state of Texas.

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