Saturday, May 26, 2018
Business

As Florida grows, it still lacks corporate brands with global clout

It's tough for Florida to be viewed as a global business player when corporate brands in the state cannot compete on the world stage.

Now that Florida will soon trail only Texas and California in population, does the state's business community boast any corporate brand valuable enough to rank among the world's 500 most powerful brands?

Nope. Nada. Zilch.

So says the recently released Brand Finance Global 500. The annual ranking by the consulting firm Brand Finance named Apple for the third year in a row as the world's most valuable brand, worth more than $104 billion. It's followed by South Korea's fast-rising Samsung at No. 2, with a brand worth about $79 billion.

The other corporate brands in the top 10 are all U.S. names, from Google and Microsoft to Verizon, GE, AT&T, Amazon, Wal-Mart and IBM.

Falling out of the top 10 this year is Coca-Cola.

Florida could be considered the Rodney Dangerfield of corporate brands for the lack of respect a large state gets when none of its homegrown corporations have global brand recognition. Even the recent headquarters relocation of car rental giant Hertz did not earn Florida a place on the Global 500.

Drop below the top 500 global brands and just two Florida company names appear. Ranking U.S. company brands only, Lakeland's Publix emerges at No. 249 with a brand value of just over $5 billion. And in Jacksonville, railroad giant CSX appears at No. 480 with a brand value just over $3 billion.

The closest Florida comes to global branding of any kind is Orlando's concentration of major theme parks. And perhaps Florida's beaches.

That's it. Slim pickings in the overall brand race for a state with 19 million people and high aspirations.

• • •

The environmental disaster in North Carolina caused by Duke Energy's coal-ash spill in the Dan River last month is raising a new controversy.

Who will get stuck with the big bill to pay for cleaning up the rest of Duke Energy's vast waste lagoons of coal ash across the state?

Duke says the company and its shareholders will pay for polluting the Dan River. But Duke has its eyes on another, familiar source of funds to tap for the estimated $1 billion required to fix its ongoing coal ash storage problems.

Customers.

According to the News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh, N.C., and the nearby Charlotte Observer, Duke CEO Lynn Good wants Duke to recover the cost by raising Carolina customer rates.

"Because that ash was created over decades for the generation of electricity, we do believe that ash-pond disposal costs are ultimately a part of our cost structure," thus chargeable to customers, she told the newspapers.

Critics counter Duke profited for decades by storing coal ash on the cheap, and now wants others to pay for the resulting mess.

CEO Good's clear preference is to broaden Duke ability to bill customers — not shareholders — for its future expansion plans.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

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