Tampa has five Fortune 500 companies in its sights

August 23, 2015

Mike Salinero
Tampa Tribune story link here
TAMPA – For all its recent economic success, the Tampa area still lags behind other U.S. metro areas that are home to major corporate headquarters.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn calls it “the missing piece in our mosaic,” an ingredient that once attained will beget other corporate relocations and rocket Tampa into the major leagues of economic prosperity.
“I think it add credibility to everything that’s going on here, which is why we’re focusing on it,” Buckhorn said. “Everything is firing on all eight cylinders and the exclamation point on that is the relocation of a major corporate headquarters.”
That long-coveted objective may be near at hand, according to Rick Homans, Hillsborough County’s chief economic recruiter. Homans told county commissioners Wednesday that five Fortune 500 companies are considering relocating their headquarters to Hillsborough.
“For us to ultimately win one of these projects, we have to be considered and that’s where we are on the radar,” Homans said in an interview after the commission meeting.
Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., would not reveal the names of the companies considering a move here. But like Buckhorn, Homans said landing a corporate headquarters is the big enchilada when it comes to economic recruiting.
“Success in this business breeds more success and more attention,” Homans said. “It’s a big win that will have all kinds of consequences to it.”
In other words, when one brand-name company plants its corporate flag in the Tampa Bay area, more are likely to follow.
“I absolutely believe when one of these Fortune 500 companies makes a move, we’ll see others move here as well,” said county Commissioner Al Higginbotham, a former member of the Economic Development Corp. board. “I think they’ll roll in.”
Higginbotham said the county’s chances are better because Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has made luring a major corporate headquarters here a personal goal.
Vinik was not available for comment, but Homans said the Lightning owner will accompany him on a Sept. 30 recruiting trip to New York and New Jersey. Also making the trip will be Gray Swoope, former Florida secretary of commerce and now president and CEO of the company VisionFirst Advisors.
Homans said he hired Swoope’s firm to help with setting up appointments for the New York-area trip. Homans said two more trips are scheduled, one to Chicago in the spring and a third to a yet-to-be decided destination, perhaps New York or Chicago.
“We’re reaching out to all different kinds of companies,” Homans said. “Ones that might have stated publicly an interest of the owners, or that we’re engaged in discussions with right now, and other ones that are cold calls but we have a relationship with them or we think there is something that might lead them to consider a relocation.”
Recruiting a corporate headquarters pays off in a number of ways for a company’s new home city, said David Fiorenza, an economist at Villanova University near Philadelphia. One is the so-called “multiplier effect,” where restaurants, dry cleaners, tailors and other businesses grow up around the new corporate flagship building. Existing small businesses in the new headquarters city will be able to pick up contracts for landscaping, maintenance or office cleaning.
“The main employees at the headquarters will be the executive officers or people in the IT offices, so those are going to be the higher wage earners,” Fiorenza said.
A major goal of economic development is growing the city and county tax base, Fiorenza said. A new corporate headquarters would boost property tax collections, not just because of the new company building but because workers will want to live nearby and buy houses or condominiums.
Also benefiting from a corporate move are non-profit groups in the new home city. Comcast Corp., the largest cable television and broadcasting company in the world by revenue, has showered its home city of Philadelphia with money for worthy causes, Fiorenza said.
“Not only are they a major employer, they also show the city support with an abundance of philanthropic giving to the arts and other areas of the community,” he said.
Corporate headquarters can also spur development of home-grown companies, which is just as important as corporate relocations, said Bill Carlson, president of Tucker/Hall, a public affairs and communications company in Tampa.
“Innovation happens around big companies,” Carlson said. “There are often people who work inside big companies who see an opportunity and they leave to create new businesses that are not competitive with their old companies.”
Carlson said the Economic Development Corp. predecessor, the Committee of One Hundred, affiliated with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, wrongly focused on call centers and so-called back office operations such as human resources departments.
“Those are not a sustainable model,” Carlson said. “So what Rick and his team have done is diversify away from that to focus in part on headquarter relocations. Landing a corporate headquarters will definitely help us raise our international profile.”