Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Business

As GE hints at headquarters move, can Florida not go all in?

How often does a major household-name U.S. corporation — No. 8 on the latest Fortune 500 ranking with a market value topping $273 billion — complain publicly about heavy taxes and suggest relocating its headquarters?

General Electric shocked the nation's economic development world this month when CEO Jeff Immelt announced GE needs to figure out if it's time to move its headquarters out of Fairfield, Conn., to a more tax-friendly state. The giant maker of everything from household appliances and lighting to aviation, transportation products and energy management employs 5,700 at its headquarters and more than 300,000 worldwide.

Immelt called Connecticut's tax scene "truly discouraging."

The response to GE has been rapid if not rabid. Some states seem to recognize a potential headquarters relocation of a company the size and stature of GE is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Is Florida arriving late to the GE conga line? Is Jeff Vinik — granted, he is distracted by something called the Stanley Cup — slow to pick up the hotline to CEO Immelt?

"I'm sure governors from across America are knocking down your door since you openly declared your displeasure with Connecticut's proposed $700 million increase in taxes on businesses over the next two years," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently wrote Immelt. "But how many of my colleagues just passed a total relief tax package of $3.8 billion like we did last week in Texas?" Texas is home to 54 Fortune 500 headquarters.

In Georgia, where 20 Fortune 500 companies are based, Gov. Nathan Deal thinks a company as large as GE is serious "when they start publicly talking about these things." As he told the Atlanta newspaper: "They can do all of the pressure they need behind the scenes. They don't have to go public in order to put pressure. … We want to make sure we make the good pitch for Georgia."

Other states pitching GE include Ohio and New York.

At the state level — and an effort to recruit a company the size of GE would require major state involvement — there's little word that Florida is beyond a tepid Defcon 5, much less 1. In Tampa, Vinik's staff on Monday indicated they do not believe their boss has been in touch with GE.

Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. chief Rick Homans hints GE is on his radar. "I can guarantee you that if a company comes right out and says it wants to move its headquarters, we're in touch with them," he stated in an email.

GE has recently nibbled some of Florida's recruitment crumbs. Last year, GE's Energy Management business left New York to create a new manufacturing Center of Excellence in Clearwater.

A GE corporate team is now analyzing states with a "more probusiness environment."

Is this relocation talk real or corporate posturing to squeeze more concessions out of Connecticut? The early betting is Immelt is serious. Can Florida or even Vinik afford to underestimate the possibilities?

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected]

Comments
FEMA rolling out new flood zone maps for Tampa Bay counties

FEMA rolling out new flood zone maps for Tampa Bay counties

Thousands of Tampa Bay-area property owners could soon find themselves with new flood zone designations on their homes and businesses.The Federal Emergency Management Agency has completed a years-long study to update flood zone maps in Hillsborough, ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rep. Charlie Crist urges federal consumer watchdog to investigate Marlin Financial

Rep. Charlie Crist urges federal consumer watchdog to investigate Marlin Financial

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is calling for the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to investigate Marlin Financial, saying he was "disturbed" by a recent Tampa Bay Times’ investigation into the online auto finance company. In a letter Tuesday af...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Dunkin' to drop Donuts, change name in January

Dunkin' to drop Donuts, change name in January

Dunkin' is dropping the donuts — from its name, anyway.Doughnuts are still on the menu, but the company is renaming itself "Dunkin'" to reflect its increasing emphasis on coffee and other drinks.The change will officially take place ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Struggling against Red Tide, a Redington Beach liquor store is too small to qualify for local aid

Struggling against Red Tide, a Redington Beach liquor store is too small to qualify for local aid

REDINGTON BEACH — Mark Wilson hasn’t had a customer for hours.As the only liquor store on his stretch of Pinellas County beaches, Wilson is used to a steady stream of tourists from the nearby condos and hotels. Other beachfront businesses affected by...
Published: 09/25/18
Weight Watchers slims its name down to WW

Weight Watchers slims its name down to WW

Weight Watchers is its dropping its brand name in exchange for something slimmer: "WW." The company says the new logo - coupled with the tagline "Wellness that Works" -- puts an emphasis on overall health and well being, with less...
Published: 09/24/18
Study: Some Tampa Bay neighborhoods among quickest selling in the state

Study: Some Tampa Bay neighborhoods among quickest selling in the state

Tampa Bay sounds like a home seller’s dream market — even compared to other locales statewide. According to a recent study by SmartAsset, four of the top 10 easiest places to sell a home in Florida are in the bay area. Northern Hillsborough County ac...
Published: 09/24/18
Lower demand brings slight dip in gas prices across state, Tampa Bay

Lower demand brings slight dip in gas prices across state, Tampa Bay

Just in time for fall, pump prices are finally declining. Gas prices in Florida averaged $2.72 per gallon Monday, down from $2.74 per gallon a week ago, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group. Tampa Bay prices were even lower at $2.63 per gallon, down...
Published: 09/24/18
SiriusXM to buy Pandora for $3.5 Billion in bid to expand reach

SiriusXM to buy Pandora for $3.5 Billion in bid to expand reach

Satellite radio provider Sirius XM said Monday that it would acquire music streaming service Pandora Media for $3.5 billion in a bid to corral listeners who do not want to pay for premium channels.Pandora rose to success by providing tailored radio s...
Published: 09/24/18
Jeff Vinik invests in gaming headset maker boosted by Fortnite’s popularity

Jeff Vinik invests in gaming headset maker boosted by Fortnite’s popularity

TAMPA — As a mutual fund wonder-boy, hedge fund manager and real estate investor, Jeff Vinik has long displayed a sense for knowing when to put money into the next big thing, and his latest bet on e-sports may be no different.Vink recently bought nea...
Published: 09/24/18
Hernando Business Digest for Sept. 28

Hernando Business Digest for Sept. 28

BrieflyEMPLOYERS NEEDED FOR JOB FAIR: Pasco-Hernando State College, CareerSource Pasco Hernando, the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce and Hernando County Office of Economic Development are seeking employers to participate in the Open for A...
Published: 09/24/18