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Take it home

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  • | 7:39 a.m. November 8, 2013
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Southwest Florida used to be a place where CEOs could get away from their businesses, a quiet retreat from hectic corporate life in the Midwest and Northeast.

But CEOs moving to counties such as Lee and Collier are increasingly bringing parts or all of their operations to the area.

Consider Lauri Klaus, the founder and CEO of KeyedIn Solutions. The Minneapolis-based company provides software that helps organizations become more efficient by simplifying processes and improving performance.

Klaus says she may move the company's headquarters to the Fort Myers-Naples area after she and her husband, George Klaus, moved to the Bay Colony golf resort in Naples a year ago. “There's no reason not to except the cost of rebranding. In six to 12 months we'll consider that,” says Klaus, who recently celebrated the grand opening of a KeyedIn office in Fort Myers.

Two senior KeyedIn executives already live in the region, including one vice president of finance and another who is vice president of research and development. “My only concern is that my Minnesota office is going to want to move here,” Klaus laughs.

Klaus joins other CEOs who live in the area and have moved their firms here. Hertz CEO Mark Frissora has a home in Naples and so does Jim Bere, the CEO of Alta Resources. Hertz is relocating its corporate headquarters to south Lee County from New Jersey and Wisconsin-based Alta recently opened a 400-employee call center in Fort Myers.

Like other CEOs, Klaus says she was surprised to find a significant number of qualified prospective employees to meet her company's needs. “We found the talent is diverse, and it's not just engineering,” she says. She's hired 10 people for a variety of positions in a new office near Interstate 75 and Daniels Parkway in Fort Myers and has plans to double that over the next year.

In particular, Klaus cites the large talent pool that is coming from local universities and colleges. For example, there are more than 14,000 students attending Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. “We're big proponents of hiring from universities,” she says.

Klaus also cites lower costs of everything from a lunchtime sandwich to housing visiting colleagues at area hotels and the fact that Florida has no income tax. “We found the cost of doing business is quite attractive,” she says.

Klaus, who built a 1,400-employee operation at Epicor Software, now has 80 employees at KeyedIn, up from four people just more than two years ago. “We'll at least double revenues this fiscal year,” she says, declining to share more specific financial information.

Fort Myers is KeyedIn's fifth location in the U.S. For example, tech research firm Gartner has a significant operation in Fort Myers, she notes. “This is more of a tech area than we would ever have guessed,” Klaus says.


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