Mission HQ: New EDC Task Force Focuses on Recruiting Brand-Name Corporate Headquarters to Hillsborough County

December 2, 2014

What would it take for an established corporate headquarters to uproot from its current location and move its operations and workforce to Tampa?  That’s the question Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation Investors serving on the newly established Corporate HQ initiative asked themselves as they began sketching out what this new strategic effort would require.
Laying a foundation for success would start with the basics: conducting research, identifying targets, and developing strategies to reach the key decision-makers. In September, the EDC contracted with San Diego-based Market Enhancement Group (MEG) to conduct a perception research study. MEG surveyed 350 Fortune 1000 CEOs to understand what drives their decision making process for corporate relocations and their perceptions of Tampa and Hillsborough County with regard to key factors such as transportation, business friendliness, workforce quality and availability and more versus competitors such as Orlando, Nashville, Charlotte, and Atlanta.
The EDC also hosted in September five of the nation’s leading site selection consultants for a three-day tour of the area. During their visit, site selection consultants Dennis Donovan, Larry Gigerich, William Hearn, John Sisson, and David Zaharchuk met with top business and community leaders and experienced the assets and advantages that set Tampa and Hillsborough County apart from other top cities. They also participated in an interactive panel with investors, where they explored the opportunities and challenges the community faces in pursuing corporate headquarters relocations.
The EDC has enlisted the help of the most notable CEOs of the area to help with the corporate headquarters initiative. Jeff Vinik with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Liz Smith with Bloomin’ Brands, and Chuck and John Sykes with Sykes Enterprises will be showcased in a series of marketing videos, highlighting the community and our business assets.
The Corporate HQ Task Force, chaired by Chuck Sykes and Gordon Gillette with Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas, held its first meeting on Tuesday, November 4th. The task force will also serve as a sounding board and assist in the development and execution of the strategy. Representatives from major local companies and organizations joined the EDC staff to discuss how to recruit a major brand-name corporate HQ to the area. Attendees gave suggestions on what areas and assets need to be focused on more in marketing efforts while also pointing out areas of concern that the group will have to be aware of as they move forward.
On November 20th, MEG President Barry Quarles shared the results of his perception research study at an invitation-only briefing with EDC Investors.
The great news is that Tampa and Hillsborough County have made great strides as a desirable destination for corporate headquarters relocation. Tampa is perceived as far more business friendly than the last time Quarles conducted a similar study back in 2002, and Tampa ranks #1 for several criteria where most of our competitors are struggling. Quarles offered several recommendations to the Investors and leaders of the Corporate HQ initiative
The first was to assemble teams of business and government leaders to fly up and visit with CEOs from organizations on the EDC’s Corporate HQ target list.  The face-to-face meetings and in-person declarations to C-level teams that we want their business to relocate to Tampa and Hillsborough County are very powerful, Quarles explained. Another key recommendation was that the EDC should focus on corporations headquartered in New York, New Jersey and the Northeast. According to Quarles’ research, Tampa and Hillsborough County are perceived by companies in those regions as far more business friendly than their own cities and states. Flights to and from these destinations would also be very easy, thanks to the many daily flights Tampa International Airport offers to the NY/NJ metro area, Boston, and other Northeastern cities.
To cap off the preparation stage of the Corporate HQ Task Force strategic plan, Andy Levine, President and Chief Creative Officer of Development Counsellors International (DCI) will be the guest speaker at an upcoming Joint Leadership Meeting in early 2015.
Look out 2015. Equipped with fresh data and an energized leadership, the EDC Corporate HQ Task Force is ready to rock.