More Northeast-based businesses look to put down roots in South Florida

·4 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic has boosted a corporate migration to South Florida from the Northeast, lured by the promise of looser COVID restrictions, lower taxes and the general draw of all the Sunshine State has to offer.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, a business development organization working to bring more companies to revitalize the Fort Lauderdale area, has had their pipeline of interested companies increase to 50% above normal, said Senior Vice President David Coddington.

“This has been really driven by the fact on how Florida has handled keeping businesses open during the pandemic,” Coddington said.

On Thursday, JetBlue Airways said it is considering whether to stay in New York, where it was founded two decades ago, or move its headquarters to Florida.

The airline, which has a travel-products subsidiary in Fort Lauderdale, is “considering how our space requirements may evolve in a hybrid work environment post-pandemic.” It is exploring a number of paths, including shifting some New York-based jobs to existing JetBlue facilities in Florida.

A spokeswoman for the airline said that a decision is expected later this year.

In the next few weeks, a New York-based tech company will be making a formal announcement on its decision to move its headquarters to Fort Lauderdale, Coddington said, adding that he knows of two or three more West Coast tech companies considering a move to the Sunshine State.

Among those making the move to Palm Beach County is Eliot Management, a hedge fund company managing $14 billion in assets. It decided to relocate due to the commercial real estate market in New York and the pandemic.

“We don’t need to physically be in the Manhattan area to be successful and profitable,” said Doug Cifu, CEO of Virtu Financial. Though it will remain headquartered in New York, Cifu has plans for a significant office location in Palm Beach Gardens.

Cifu, who also owns the Florida Panthers hockey team and a home in Palm Beach, said the decision to open a “traveling headquarters,” as he calls it, in South Florida came about due to the quality of living in New York in the COVID era, state taxes and the ability to work remotely— which has become more commonplace amid the pandemic.

“When I brought it up at a townhall, people that were in their 40s with school-aged children put their hands up (in favor of the move).”

NewDay, a Maryland-based mortgage lending firm is opening up a second headquarters in West Palm Beach. The company announced Tuesday that its South Florida headquarters will open at Rosemary Square in downtown West Palm Beach this fall.

Attracted by South Florida’s demographics, New Day CEO Rob Posner said the company’s decision to head south was made nearly a year ago.

“We looked at where young people want to live,” Posner said. “The pandemic helped in terms of reinforcing the decision when we saw there is a huge migration of young college graduates from the Northeast” gravitating south.

The company plans on creating at least 600 jobs over the next few years, offering $60,000 starting salaries to college graduates, he said.

Both Virtu Financial and NewDay USA plan on recruiting from the local talent pool in the area. Virtu Financial is already in talks with colleges across Florida and plans to recruit students from local colleges like Florida Atlantic University with degrees in computer science, math, and applied chemistry.

Point72, a hedge fund company based in Connecticut, has already opened a location in West Palm Beach. Currently, it’s operating out of a small, temporary office in Rosemary Square. The company said it plans to expand to a full-space office toward the end of the year, and may double its 20-person staff in the future.

The Palm Beach County Business Development Board, a private nonprofit aimed at stimulating the county’s economy, noticed a significant uptick in companies calling with interest in moving to the area starting last August.

It was a level of interest higher than anything they’ve seen in the past eight years, Kelly Smallridge, the CEO and president of the Palm Beach County Business Development Board said. In the past six months alone, 30 companies have made serious inquiries, with ten starting the process of moving to the area, she added.

With the influx of these new employees moving with their companies comes disposable income, a necessary boost to the hospitality and retail industry in the surrounding area, Smallridge added.

“This type of activity leads to good retail activity,” Smallridge said. “Retail activity does not survive unless you have these types of economic activity because these jobs and salaries allow for disposable income.”

Blackstone, a private equity group, is opening up offices in downtown Miami in the new year.

There has been a similar uptick in Miami-Dade, said Michael Finney, who works for The Beacon Council, a business development organization for Miami-Dade County.

“We are talking to individuals all the time who have made decisions to set up their residences in Miami-Dade and their families are coming here and enrolling in schools,” Finney said. “The next step is for us to say ‘We want you to consider establishing your business here.’”