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Florida Corporate Moves

Piper Aircraft Decides to Stay and Expand in Vero Beach

A highly competitive, two-year site selection process ended favorably for Florida when Piper Aircraft announced in May that it would keep its headquarters in Vero Beach and significantly expand its manufacturing facilities at the Florida location.

A $32-million incentive package that was included in an agreement between the company, the state and Indian River County sealed the deal, according to officials. The retention of the aircraft manufacturing facility keeps more than 900 jobs in Vero Beach, to which an additional 453 will be added by 2012.

“Piper Aircraft’s continued presence will mean thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in wages, economic development and other contributions for Indian River County, surrounding communities and our state,” says Governor Charlie Crist.

“Florida is continuing to attract cutting-edge, technology-based companies, like Piper, that expand our state’s innovation economy,” he adds.

Piper Aircraft conducted an extensive site search and looked closely at Oklahoma City, OK and Albuquerque, NM, before reaching its decision to remain in Vero Beach.

According to reports, the $32-million incentive package for Piper is tied to a commitment from the company to retain a workforce of at least 1,417 through 2015. The incentive package will help Piper make capital investments in facilities, technology, equipment and tooling. During the negotiations with Piper, county commissioners initially planned to have the incentive package approved in a referendum, but they opted not to go forward with the ballot initiative.

Most of the new jobs at Piper will be generated in the run-up to production of the company’s new ultralight PiperJet in Vero Beach. Piper currently has about 160 certified aircraft models, an estimated 90,000 of which are still flying. Overall, the company’s operations are expected to generate a $518-million impact on the local economy.

Piper Aircraft president and CEO Jim Bass, who joined Gov. Crist at the announcement of the deal in May, characterized the agreement as more than a “vote of confidence” in the company’s longtime home of Vero Beach.

“Our decision also is a commitment by Piper to Indian River County and the State of Florida,” he said. Partners in the expansion project include Enterprise Florida, the City of Vero Beach and Indian River County.

High-tech Firms Moving into South Florida

Three international technology companies-BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, cell phone manufacturer FoxConn International Holdings, and General Dynamics C4 Systems, a communications and information systems firm-recently committed to locate new facilities in South Florida, bringing more than 400 high-paying jobs with them.

According to economic development officials of the Broward Alliance, the influx of high-tech players ironically was fueled by recent layoffs at Motorola Inc.’s operations in Plantation, FL. The cutbacks at Motorola created a ready pool of trained technical workers, the officials said.

Canadian-based Research In Motion reportedly is looking at locations in Fort Lauderdale for a new research and development center that eventually may employ about 500 people.

In Sunrise, FL, Hong Kong-based FoxConn opened its 42,000-square-foot Sunrise Center in June, a facility which will focus on design and development of smartphones. Scottsdale, AZ-based General Dynamics C4 also opened a new facility in Sunrise, a 20,000-square-foot complex that will focus on tactical-networking and next-generation communications programs for the U.S. Department of Defense. Quality of life and proximity to universities were key factors in General Dynamics’ site selection.

The FoxConn facility employs 200 people; the General Dynamics C4 complex expects its staff to grow to more than 100.

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