Florida State Focus: Changes And Challenges

From COVID challenges to the road to recovery, not unlike many others, Florida is dealing with new territory in 2021.

By Dominique Cantelme
From the January/February 2021 Issue

Since the beginning of 2020 we have been dealing with unknown and unwanted territory. COVID troubles, civil unrest and election issues teamed up against us. Now we need to do what we can for whoever we can. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has allowed his state’s businesses to reopen and wheels are turning with the goal of an economic rebound.

Like many others, Florida lawmakers are exploring relief measures that the legislature could pass to prevent more business closures and layoffs. Some options include waiving the state’s business rent tax and suspending collection of corporation renewal fees until 2022.

Florida State Focus
A&P students at George Stone Technical College in Escambia County, FL receive hands-on training. (Photo: Enterprise Florida)

In addition, the November election saw a majority of voters in Florida approve Amendment 2 to the Florida Constitution, which raises the minimum wage rate over the next six years from its current rate of $8.56 per hour to $15 per hour—with the first stage taking effect in September 2021 with an increase to $10 per hour.

Whether any of the State’s current, upcoming or potential solutions will have the intended impact…only time will tell. And if we learned anything from the new year, it may be a while. Remember cheering on 2021 only to realize that so far it’s just like 2020?

One thing is for sure though: the Sunshine State will shine once again.


Northwest Florida, or Florida’s panhandle as some may know it, is a vibrant destination for several industry sectors, some of which may surprise you. From its western edge in Pensacola stretching eastward along the beautiful emerald coast to Apalachicola and reaching north beyond Interstate 10 to border Alabama and a part of Georgia, you will find more than 1.1 million Northwest Floridians.

Located in Northwest Florida are six aviation-focused military bases that employ more than 56,000 individuals. These military operations include aviation activities such as unmanned aerial systems, weapons testing, pilot training and aerospace systems research and development.

This specific military influence on the region has fostered an aerospace and defense cluster of nearly 500 companies. Northwest Florida’s aerospace cluster includes aerospace parts manufacturers and aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) firms, as well as innovative research institutions that transfer military aerospace technology to the private sector.

Aviation leaders such as ST Engineering and Leonardo Helicopters have recently started to develop new facilities in Northwest Florida because of the outstanding aviation workforce, welcoming business climate, exceptional quality of life and unprecedented financial resources available.

The untold story is that Northwest Florida’s military installations offer much more than the direct economic impact they bring. They also form a hidden talent supply of exiting military members with aviation experience and skillsets in areas such as avionics, aircraft maintenance and engineering, who are ready for a new civilian career within Northwest Florida and have the soft skills of commitment, punctuality and determination that can’t easily be taught. On average, more than 3,000 active duty military personnel separate from these six installations each year, and 130,000 veterans call Northwest Florida home. Better yet, Veterans Florida offers major incentive dollars in training for every veteran hired.

Educational institutions in Northwest Florida are continuously enhancing ways to grow the aerospace talent pipeline. Many high schools already offer aviation technology and manufacturing career academies which prepare students for the next level, such as attending any of the region’s three FAA-certified Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) programs.

Project-ready industrial sites, another important component to any competitive location, are abundant in Northwest Florida because of visionary planning for industrial growth well into the future. Many of these sites have direct access to runways up to 10 linear feet and other infrastructure in place to reduce speed-to-market demands for aerospace firms.

The supply chain linkages are also strong within the great Southeast U.S., offering immediate access to six aerospace and 12 automotive OEM manufacturers, as well as 1,700 aerospace parts manufacturers. Companies such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems are utilizing the region’s aerospace supply chain to their advantage.

Northwest Florida also offers unprecedented financial resources which may assist in offsetting startup costs for companies looking to locate or expand. One example is the $1.5 billion economic development fund, Triumph Gulf Coast, which was established after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The City of Pensacola partnered with ST Engineering to develop a MRO campus, which was made possible by a $66 million grant award for the project from Triumph Gulf Coast.

Northwest Florida has developed a robust aerospace and defense cluster, not only supported by an established aviation workforce and a business-driven economic climate, but also because you’ll find peace of mind that you are in a safe and beautiful place to live and raise a family.


In the heart of Central Florida, Lake County provides easy access to interstates, highways, seaports and international airports, where local businesses are able to service clients throughout the state, nation and world—truly embodying its trademark “Real Florida. Real Close.” Offering small town character combined with the close amenities of the Orlando metro area, Lake County is an attractive destination not only for tourists, but also for the best and brightest employment candidates to live, work and enjoy life.

With 2020’s population estimated to be more than 366,000, and a growth rate of 4.2 percent in the past year (2018-2019), according to data from the Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) at the University of Florida, Lake County is the third fastest growing county in the state. As Orlando’s urban core continues to approach build-out, Lake County will experience even more growth over the coming decades; with forecasts predicting the population will be more than 452,700 by the year 2030.

A pro-business attitude and diverse workforce make Lake County an ideal location for companies in any industry. While the focus has been on target industries like aviation and aerospace, life sciences and medical services, agri-tech and manufacturing, the existing industry base is varied, ranging from local, single-owner shops to multinational corporations. The local economy continues to grow every year as increasingly more companies discover Lake County, FL is the ideal place to locate a business.

Elevate Lake, Lake County’s economic development organization, has identified four major strategic corridors that will serve as significant economic drivers within the County:

  • Wellness Way will capitalize on the human performance training, nutrition, sports medicine and health sciences work being done at the National Training Center, South Lake Hospital and Lake-Sumter State College, while protecting existing natural resources through effective master planning. Including over 16,000 acres located between Interstate-4, Florida’s Turnpike and U.S. Highway 27, this strategic corridor will house upwards of 15,500 housing units and over 11 million square feet of non-residential uses.
  • Wolf Branch Innovation District will be a significant employment center situated on approximately 1,300 acres along the Wekiva Parkway extension into Mount Dora. As it is the final leg of the beltway around Orlando, it will create significant economic development opportunities in Northeast Lake County. Elevate Lake and the City of Mount Dora have completed an implementation plan that will guide the development of this strategic corridor to include a wide range of commercial, light industrial and retail land uses.
  • Minneola Interchange is located along Florida’s Turnpike at the epicenter of the City of Minneola’s recently created CRA, spanning roughly 4,000 acres, and will be home to four planned mixed-use developments. In total, the developments have entitlements for over 8,000 residential units, 1.69 million square feet of retail and office space and 1.4 million square feet of industrial space. This strategic corridor is conveniently located 20 minutes from downtown Orlando, 30 minutes from the Orlando International Airport and 20 minutes from major Interstates I-4 and I-75.
  • Christopher C. Ford Commerce Park is located on U.S. Highway 27 at the crossroads of State Road 19 and Florida’s Turnpike. As Lake County’s largest existing industrial park, it has become the home of over a dozen manufacturing and distribution businesses. Companies such as Carroll Fulmer Trucking, Dunkin Donuts Distribution, Niagara Water Bottling Company and Domino’s Distribution have realized the benefits of the Park’s strategic location. New businesses being added to this strategic corridor in 2021 include the Kroger robotic customer fulfillment center and Amazon’s last-mile delivery station.

The Kroger Co., America’s largest grocery retailer, and Ocado, one of the world’s largest dedicated online grocery retailers, chose Lake County as the second location in the U.S. for one of their Customer Fulfillment Centers. They will leverage advanced robotics technology and creative solutions to redefine the grocery experience in Central Florida by accelerating the ability to provide customers with anything, anytime and anywhere. The nearly completed facility will be adding more than 400 jobs and is scheduled to be operational at the beginning of the second quarter in 2021.

Amazon Logistics announced signing a lease to open a new delivery station in Lake County to power their last-mile delivery capabilities, which will speed up deliveries for customers in the metro area. The new delivery station will provide not only efficient delivery for customers, but also create hundreds of job opportunities for the local workforce.

Elevate Lake is determined to foster a robust and healthy economy for Lake County’s citizens and businesses by focusing on key strategic initiatives that support existing businesses, workforce development, site development and business retention and attraction efforts. With Lake County’s Board of County Commissioners focused on providing a friendly business environment, a wealth of available land, an attractive tax climate, numerous commerce parks and an unparalleled quality of life, starting a business or relocating to Lake County, FL has never been easier or more promising.


Better quality employees demand a better quality of life. They find it in Greater Fort Lauderdale.

Everyone knows the best and brightest employees can chose to live anywhere they want. More and more often they’re choosing a locale based on overall quality of life. This is why the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County area is seeing top employees arrive in record numbers daily, eager to refresh, reenergize and work in an area which quite frankly feels more like a vacation, with a quality of life second to none, while working in great careers.

It’s no secret Greater Fort Lauderdale is world-famous for its seemingly endless miles of warm sandy beaches. Countless waterways and the Atlantic Ocean also offer endless opportunities for boating, diving, paddle boarding, jet skiing and many other water adventure activities. More than 40 golf courses, from exclusive clubs to premier municipal facilities to renowned resorts, entice residents to soak up some sun and play in the great outdoors, which is easy to do year-round since Greater Fort Lauderdale has an average temperature of 76 degrees. A vast, well-maintained system of dozens of parks also offer a wide range of outdoor activities, from tennis, aquatics and boat rides to horseback riding, skate parks, campgrounds and everything in between.

Beyond the obvious lure of year-round outdoor activities adding to quality of life, there are inviting residential options for everyone. This wide-range of living and lifestyle options includes downtown communities, family-friendly suburban homes, LGBT-friendly neighborhoods, waterfront condominiums and expansive ranches. Many Greater Fort Lauderdale cities have been recognized nationally for their high quality of life, “family friendliness”, top schools, recreational programs and housing programs. Fort Lauderdale was named one of the top 25 best places to live and as having one of the top 10 downtowns in the U.S. by Livability.com. The city was named one of the country’s “100 Best Places to Live and Launch a Business” by CNN Money, and the “2nd Happiest City for Young Professionals in the U.S.” by Forbes. Weston and Lauderhill ranked in the top 15 best small cities to start a business by Verizon, while South Florida overall (Fort Lauderdale/Miami/West Palm Beach) ranked top 10 in the nation for women to start a business by Business.com. Families enjoy the Greater Fort Lauderdale area as well. Pembroke Pines, Tamarac and Sunrise were recognized by Businessweek magazine as best places to raise children, while Cooper City was named “One of the Ten Best Towns for Families” by Family Circle. A number of polls and accolades reach the same conclusion; quality of life is outstanding in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area.

Many who move to the region are also lured by the vibrancy of the arts, culture and music scene. Greater Fort Lauderdale is home to many world-class performance venues, museums and multicultural festivals and events. One such venue is the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, which houses several smaller theaters and is one of the nation’s most-visited theaters. It’s home to the nation’s largest arts-in-education program of its kind and hosts many famous travelling Broadway shows. Bailey Contemporary Arts, the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood and the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, also help the arts thrive in this very multicultural area. The Museum of Discovery and Science is a family favorite, with an airboat simulator, an otter exhibit, an aviation exhibit and the AutoNation IMAX Theater, while the NSU Art Museum is a premier destination for exhibitions and programs in the visual arts.

Each year residents enjoy hundreds of local cultural festivals, including the Winterfest Boat Parade, Las Olas Art Fair, the Seminole Tribal Fair & Pow Wow and Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride parade. The area is also home to two beachfront music festivals, Riptide—featuring alternative rock music—and Tortuga—featuring a blend of country, pop and rock music. The South Florida Symphony Orchestra brings world-class musicians and performances to the region, and the Symphony of the Americas brings the best of classical music blended with new Latin compositions to the multicultural population of South Florida.

The Broward County Board of County Commissioners also places great importance on local green initiatives. One outstanding example is the Greenways System—a county-wide network of safe, clean bicycle and equestrian paths, nature trails and waterways that connect each neighborhood, from the Everglades to the Atlantic Ocean to conservation lands, parks and recreation facilities, cultural and historic sites, schools and business areas. Another transportation initiative is Broward B-cycle, a bike-sharing service with multiple rental stations.

Shopping is a favorite area pastime with everything from neighborhood boutiques to mid-sized suburban malls to very large malls like Sawgrass Mills. Las Olas Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale is a favorite location for outdoor dining, shopping and entertainment.

Greater Fort Lauderdale sports fans also have easy access to professional football, hockey, soccer, baseball and basketball. The Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Inter Miami CF in Fort Lauderdale, and in Miami, the Dolphins, Heat and Marlins, give fans plenty of opportunities to cheer on their favorite teams and get caught up in the action.

All things considered, from its sandy beaches and smooth golf greens, to its professional sports, top museums and outdoor family festivals, Greater Fort Lauderdale offers an unmatched and attractive quality of life. Shopping, dining, greenspace and a variety of housing options in both urban and suburban locations add to the region’s appeal as a great place to live, work and play. It’s no wonder the best and brightest employees in the country are willing and eager to call Greater Fort Lauderdale home.


Hernando County, on the west coast of Florida in the highly regarded Tampa Bay Region, welcomes you with the perfect blend of business relocation, expansion and fulfilling/enriching lifestyle opportunities. Availability, affordability, accessibility and community, that’s what it’s all about.

The Brooksville – Tampa Bay Regional Airport & Technology Center (BKV) provides an abundance of opportunity just 40 minutes north of Tampa International Airport. Perfect for aviation-related businesses, the airport features a 7,000ft ILS equipment primary runway (with plans to expand to 8,000ft), an air traffic control tower, airside parcels and CSX rail access sites with sidings in place. The Technology Center is a premier business location and the epicenter of economic development in Hernando County. The BKV Tech Center is a 2,400-acre, master planned facility with features that include available manufacturing buildings, 1,000+ acres of land for development, sites with direct airside access and a Duke Energy Site Ready 285-acre parcel with infrastructure in place. With access to more than 300,000 workers within a 30-minute drive, a technical high school and adult education center just across the street, you can see why it is home to successful businesses such as Airdyne Aerospace, Pem-Air Turbine Engine Services, American Aviation Flight Academy, Accuform, Barrette Outdoor Living and Micro-Matic USA, to name just a few.

On the east side of the county, just one mile from Interstate 75 and 40 miles from the Florida Turnpike, several hundred acres are ready for development. Situated on either side of a 1.5M-square-foot Wal-Mart Distribution Center, these two sites are prime for manufacturing or logistics.

Accessibility and transportation are key to your business and with five major highways crisscrossing Hernando County, shipping and receiving is a breeze. North-south routes include Interstate 75, U.S. 19, the Suncoast Parkway and U.S. 41. The latter two run adjacent to the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Technology Center, providing a two-stop light connection to Tampa International Airport. I-75 is east of Brooksville and connects via the major east-west artery, State Road 50.

A business-friendly community, Hernando County is committed to growing industry. The County has invested in the BKV Tech Center by providing infrastructure-ready sites for your business expansion needs. Road, water and sewer are available throughout the park; drainage and water retention are master planned, affording significant construction savings. By combining State of Florida incentives, workforce training programs and a Rapid Response Permitting Program, Hernando County is the ideal place for business to thrive.

Building the pipeline for your future workforce needs is a top priority in Hernando County and throughout the Tampa Bay Region. Relationships with the local school system and post-secondary institutions help to influence curriculum and workforce training programs to suit your specific business requirements. The County’s partnerships with Pasco-Hernando State College, St. Leo University, University of South Florida, University of Florida and University of Central Florida, along with a robust technical high school and adult education institutions like SunCoast Technical Education Center, ensures access to any business expertise you may require as well as a pool of well-trained and motivated employees.

“All work and no play makes …” for an impossibility in Hernando County. Recreational activities are so abundant and varied, it is no wonder it is known as Florida’s Adventure Coast. Your employees and business associates will melt at the picture-perfect sunsets on the Gulf of Mexico, where the Hernando County coast will lure them to some of the best fishing, scalloping and shallow water boating in west central Florida. Inland, they will enjoy playing on championship golf courses and kayaking on a matrix of rivers. You may enjoy hiking, biking and horseback riding on some of Florida’s top-rated trails that meander through forests and nature preserves.

The metro markets of Tampa and Orlando are only a short drive away and residents in Hernando County have access to a wide range of professional sports venues, concert halls, cultural and fine arts, and some of the top-ranked beaches in the United States. Residents here enjoy big-city conveniences while living in an active suburban community where the cost of living consistently ranks lowest of Tampa Bay’s seven county region.

With a reputation as the most affordable county in the Tampa Bay Region and offering lifestyle choices from beaches to country clubs to ranches to historic homes, Hernando County has something for everyone. These assets, combined with a business-friendly government, available land and an abundant and well-trained workforce, make Hernando County a natural choice for business relocation and expansion.

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