- October 11, 2013
General Electric may be the highest-profile company to announce plans to move out of high-tax Connecticut, but the exodus has already started from the Northeast.
Consider Charles Grimes, one of the foremost intellectual property attorneys in the nation. With clients such as actress Jessica Simpson, country music superstar LeeAnn Rimes and billionaire industrialist Ronald Perelman, Grimes moved his law firm's headquarters to Bonita Springs from Connecticut in January.
His neighbor in a Bonita Springs office park is a familiar one to him: footwear giant Camuto Group, a Jessica Simpson licensee that also recently moved operations from Connecticut. “A lot of Connecticut firms are opening up here,” Grimes says.
Just up the road, Hertz is putting the finishing touches on the company's new headquarters after relocating from New Jersey. “I think it's the first of many,” says Grimes, whose intellectual property corporate clients are as diverse as Archie Comics, Revlon, Hasbro and Time Warner.
Low taxes and a lower cost of living are just some of the reasons Grimes and his wife, Brenda, are building a new home in Talis Park, a luxury community in North Naples. “It's a lot easier doing business here,” he says.
Even though he's not a golfer or boater, Grimes loves the weather. “I golf religiously once a year and rent a boat periodically,” he jokes. “This is Middle America with warmth.”
Grimes says he's been a frequent visitor to Fort Lauderdale in the past — 500 times in the last 30 years, he estimates. But he's not a fan of that city: “It screamed New York,” says the Pittsburgh native.
That may be surprising to some on the receiving end of Grimes' missives. “I'm an aggressive bastard during the day for my clients,” he acknowledges. But Grimes, 63, says he's a cuddly grandfather after work. “I leave it here,” he smiles.
His firm still has offices in Connecticut and New York City, but that's become less important as technology improves. “So many of my clients are international they don't care where you're located,” he says. “They want to know your cell phone and do you respond to emails.”
Grimes says he gets new clients through word of mouth because of his decades in the business and reputation as a well-published intellectual-property attorney. He says it's also important to maintain an active website with blogs to keep it fresh so prospective clients can learn more about his firm.
Grimes says there are business opportunities in Southwest Florida as more companies such as Hertz and Camuto move to the area. “This is an area that's up and coming,” he says.
Grimes entered into a business relationship with the Miami law firm Arrastia Capote Partners to help it expand its intellectual property business and Grimes now sees a niche in the market. “Miami doesn't have a lot of intellectual property attorneys either,” he says, though he chuckles that he calls himself Carlos because it's hard for Spanish speakers to pronounce his name.
Finding talent in Southwest Florida has proved to be easier, too. “We've found very, very competent people here,” Grimes says.
In particular, Grimes says he's found talent while teaching at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples. “Ave Maria has a very bright student body,” says Grimes, who recently hired top-of-class student Luca Hickman. “That's one of the things that attracted me here.”
Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss