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A conversation with Jeb Bush, Former Governor of Florida, and Francis Suarez, Mayor of the City of Miami

Click here to view the webinar recording

Many of the country’s biggest businesses and brightest minds are moving to Florida.

Real estate investment group Blackstone, technology consulting firm Nucleus Research, global investment bank Goldman Sachs, investment firm Hidden Lake Asset Management, and autonomous vehicle technology company Argo AI, are just a few of the many big names in finance and technology that have announced plans to stake out a presence in the Sunshine State in recent months. Billionaire tech entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel have bought homes in the Miami area.

While this migration of people to Florida began years ago, making it the third largest state, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these recent moves as workers are no longer tied to their desks and are increasingly allowed to work from any location. As the pandemic has continued, many business owners are realizing this shift toward remote work is likely here to stay.

With business increasingly being conducted remotely, some leaders also no longer feel the need to be physically located in traditional business hubs like New York City, Silicon Valley or Los Angeles and are seeking other locations that offer a high quality of life for their employees as well as more favorable tax structures, lower cost of living and welcoming government officials. Florida represents the right mix of conditions that are attractive to business leaders looking to make a move.

On Feb. 4, Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez joined Buchanan’s Florida Offices Chair and lifelong Miamian Raquel A. Rodriguez on a webinar to discuss this ongoing trend and why more businesses should consider moving a portion of their operations to the Sunshine State. Here are the top four reasons discussed during their conversation on why businesses are making the move:

1. Florida’s tax structure is more business-friendly than other states

Florida’s favorable tax rates are a significant factor driving many individuals and businesses to relocate to the state. To begin, Florida has no state personal, inheritance or intangibles tax. Its corporate and sales taxes are low compared to other states. According to Suarez, the high tax rates in other states are a “tremendous disincentive to be productive” and the tax laws throughout Florida, including Miami, have always attracted entrepreneurs, innovators, and industry leaders. With companies and employees no longer feeling physically tied to hubs in the Northeast or California, many individuals and companies are moving to take advantage of these favorable tax structures. With less income going to the government in taxes, Suarez believes it will provide more capital to fuel further investment in other ventures and enterprises across the area.

2. Florida state and local government officials are welcoming relocating businesses with open arms

Government officials in Florida have been actively recruiting business leaders to consider coming to the state and have taken steps to welcome them. Former Governor Bush used $500 million in post 9-11 stimulus funds to recruit world-renowned life science institutes to help diversify the state’s economy. Mayor Suarez said he has adopted a “hospitality mentality” by actively reaching out to business leaders and doing all he can to make them feel at home in the state. One of Suarez’s Tweets to a venture capitalist, asking “How can I help?”, went viral and launched a further wave of interest in companies seeking out Miami. Suarez said he and other Florida public officials want to work with business leaders to help them acclimate to the state and also make the best of the opportunities provided there.

“I’m now [essentially] a college football recruiter,” Suarez said. “I’m going out there and just making sure that all these amazing people that are coming here are not just buying homes, but they’re making deeper investments in our community.”

According to Bush, this mentality and approach stands in stark contrast to other city mayors and public officials that have “taken for granted” some of the large businesses in their areas, which has led many companies to consider changing locations. This inviting and welcoming approach has differentiated the state and has been a huge influence in attracting new businesses to the area, he added.

3. Florida has good weather, quality of life, schools, and infrastructure

It’s no secret that the state of Florida is home to one of the best climates in the U.S. With new remote work policies freeing employees to work wherever they want, many are choosing the warm temperatures and sunny skies of Florida. The state also boasts some of the nation’s best restaurants, cultural attractions, and overall quality of life. Not to mention its pristine beaches. A major driver of the influx in the past several months has been that the state managed to re-open for business ahead of other large business hubs while managing the COVID-19 crisis.. Florida’s education system is also vastly improved and investments in the state’s infrastructure over the last several decades have created an environment built for the future.

“There are all sorts of people that are saying ‘I want my children to grow up in a place where it’s not hostile, they’re dealing with problems, the schools work, and the infrastructure feels like it’s new,’” Bush said during the discussion. “All of that bodes well for our state.”

4. Florida is investing in itself

Florida is having a moment when it comes to economic growth. Suarez said during the discussion that he is determined to turn this “moment into a movement” by investing in the area’s future. In Miami, this means providing better funding to local schools and improving academic curriculum in ways that set students up for success in today’s technology-driven world. Miami is also investing heavily in broadband infrastructure to ensure that all of its citizens gain access to high-speed internet connections. Additionally, workforce development programs are being expanded to build a strong pipeline of qualified workers with skills to match today’s modern economy and power the future of Florida businesses.

“We’re at the beginning of an era of enormous prosperity that will benefit everybody,” Bush said.

Florida’s continued rise

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have served as the catalyst driving some companies to move to Florida today, the momentum behind this movement has been building for years.  As Suarez pointed out, Miami is an international city today because of decades of families leaving troubled countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to make their homes in Miami. This diversity is a further reason why businesses are seeking out the Sunshine State. The confluence of Florida’s smart tax structure, welcoming attitude from public officials, high quality of life, and a bright future will likely keep businesses coming to the state for many years.

Planning a Move?

When making the move between states, it is important to plan ahead. Because of differing tax structures and other considerations that have long term impacts, businesses and individuals planning a move should seek competent legal advice. Our attorneys at Buchanan have decades of experience in Florida and across the country and can help companies and individuals navigate this transition. A little up-front planning can go a long way in saving headaches down the line.