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First Person: Florida Power & Light's Economic Development Efforts Aim to Rekindle State Economy
Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest utility, has established its first economic development department to supplement and further the state’s efforts in business recruitment and retention. We spoke with FPL’s President Eric Silagy to find out why FPL has taken this new step and with FPL’s Director of Economic Development Lynn Pitts to learn more about the company’s new resources.
Eric Silagy, President, Florida Power & Light Company  and Lynn Pitts, Director of Economic Development, Florida Power & Light Company (Q2 / Spring 2013)
AD: How has Florida’s economy impacted economic development?

Silagy:
It’s not surprising to learn that Florida’s economy has struggled as a result of the national recession and the hit to our state’s real estate market. Governor Scott has made great strides in getting Florida’s economy back on track. Although we have a way to go before we’re back to a robust economy, we’re on the right path.


AD: What positive signs have you seen?

Silagy:
At Florida Power & Light, we see positive economic signs on a fairly consistent basis, particularly with a rise in building permits. Fortunately, the state has been more aggressive in furthering economic growth that will benefit every Florida resident. We’ve learned that we just can’t focus on our state alone. Addressing economic development issues with a global perspective has broadened our growth and will continue to do so.

AD: Why start an Office of Economic Development after so many years without this department?

Silagy:
As the largest utility in Florida that touches nearly 4.6 million Floridians every day either at work, home, school, or in their communities — and a leading employer in Florida with 10,000 employees — we decided back in 2011 to take a broad look across the state landscape. Our goal was to identify what we could do to step up our game in advancing economic development activities already under way by the state’s Enterprise Florida program, Florida’s 64 economic development agencies, and the private sector.

We met with a wide range of folks representing various industries, government, and economic development and asked them, “How can we help support Florida’s economic development efforts?” There was an opportunity for us to provide a range of tools and resources that would support site selectors and new businesses looking at Florida, help existing industries, and create jobs. Consequently, we established Florida Power & Light’s Office of Economic Development to develop and oversee these related activities.

AD: It’s been two years since starting FPL’s Office of Economic Development. What advances have been made?

Silagy:
Even though FPL’s rates are the lowest in the state and among the lowest nationally, we now offer an economic development power incentive to advance business growth and attraction. New or existing businesses that add to their electric load and provide new jobs can apply for a discounted service rate. A higher incentive is available to businesses that locate in commercial or industrial space that has been vacant for more than six months. To date, 24 companies have signed up to participate in this rate special with the subsequent creation of more than 3,000 jobs.

AD: What’s on the agenda for 2013?

Silagy:
Our second economic development effort, PoweringFlorida.com, was launched in January. It is the first web resource in Florida that brings together all the critical information that site selectors need to identify sites for new headquarters or facilities. The website serves as a one-stop-shop for vital and timely information to anyone needing business information about Florida — from real estate availability to work force statistics. We’re confident both the rate incentive and comprehensive website will help bring businesses to Florida, help current businesses expand, and rekindle the state economy. Florida Light & Power’s Office of Economic Development has, in just two years, produced economic development tools that have never existed before. We’re proud to be partners with government, industry, and the private sector to keep Florida even more competitive in economic development practices and grow business and jobs in this great state.

AD: Can you explain the new web-based tools built by FPL?

Pitts:
PoweringFlorida.com is our new database resource tool that helps quantify Florida’s numerous location benefits to decision-makers. The site has two components. The first is an open-access, searchable database where users can obtain detailed demographic data and information about local assets in specific communities and counties throughout Florida and offers the ability to compare these communities to others nationwide. Users can also obtain information about FPL’s recently created special economic development rates available to companies interested in locating or expanding in Florida. The second component is the password-protected “Resource Center” for use by businesses or location consultants with specific expansion or location projects as well as local economic development agencies to help them identify and understand their unique community value propositions, allowing them to better promote and respond to interested companies

AD: Where does the data come from and how often is it updated?

Pitts:
We include Bureau of Labor Statistics, EMSI, InfoUSA, and others, and it’s updated quarterly. EMSI — a third-party provider — is our source for work force data and allows the user to compare the data of any Florida community with that of any other in-state or out-of-state community through a side-by-side comparison on all data points.

AD: And what does the “Resource Center” component offer?

Pitts:
The password-protected “Resource Center” is available to locating or expanding businesses and consultants assisting these businesses. It allows them to evaluate in detail the local economy and work force characteristics of a community of interest. Also, Florida economic developers can assess their community or region’s competitiveness across multiple business sectors. Using the center’s evaluation tools, they can determine which industries their communities are best suited for and then identify and target companies in those sectors.

AD: Explain how this “Resource Center” might be used?

Pitts:
First, users can make a corporate inventory detailing the existing companies in their community — or even their region. Next, they can perform an in-depth evaluation of the existing work force, and finally the user can employ a location-factor matching tool that calculates the weighted location factors that are pertinent for 31 separate business sectors. Using these tools, the user can perform an evaluation of a community’s attributes and compare them against the industry standards for any given sector.

AD: How do community leaders benefit from this?

Pitts:
By using the Resource Center’s “Regional Evaluator” and “Location Factor Matching Tool” communities can evaluate themselves and then overlay their evaluation with the factors to see how they match up — both in assets and by data points. Community leaders can ask themselves how they can overcome any weaknesses they discover in order to attract a particular industry sector.

AD: What advantages does the Resource Center offer interested companies looking at Florida?

Pitts:
Any company or site consultant actively considering Florida as a location for an expansion or relocation project can request password access to the PoweringFlorida® Resource Center portion of the site. It allows them to obtain very detailed location analysis of Florida communities and to gain objective, unbiased information on the location they are considering. This data is much more detailed than what is included on www.poweringflorida.com and allows them to delve deeply into work force, economic, and business demographics. Our ultimate goal is to simplify the site selection process for companies and their consultants, allowing them to quickly and efficiently locate the best Florida communities in which to locate a business.

 
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