- Florida ranks as the second-best state for business in the U.S., just behind Texas, according to the 2023 Chief Executive Best and Worst States for Business report.
- The state’s low taxes and strong stance against pandemic-related business shutdowns contributed to its high ranking, despite tensions between Governor Ron DeSantis and Walt Disney Co.
- Florida’s growing economy and pro-business environment, boosted by the migration of businesses and residents from high-tax states, have also contributed to its success as a business destination.
(The Center Square) – Florida is the second best state for business, again, behind Texas, according to a 2023 Chief Executive Best and Worst States for Business report. The magazine has surveyed the top U.S. CEOs since 2021. Every year, Texas ranks first.
Florida ranked second for the second year in a row for its “low taxes and strong stance against pandemic-motivated business shutdowns,” the report notes.
“The big question going into our annual Best & Worst States survey of CEOs this year,” the report said, was “Would Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s high-profile battle with Walt Disney Co. sour CEOs on Florida as a site for locating and expanding their companies?
“The answer, it seems, is no.”
The Florida legislature last year passed a bill stripping the billion-dollar entertainment company of its self-governing and special tax status, which most companies in Florida don’t have. Earlier this year, Osceola County officials asked the legislature to amend, reenact or repeal the law that established the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which gave Disney and several other entities special tax and regulatory status.
The legislature and county did so after Disney officials, Democrats and many in the media falsely accused or misreported on the language in a bill that restricted schools from teaching gender identity and sexual orientation issues to kindergartners through third-graders. Last May, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the law.
This year, state lawmakers filed another bill, HB 1069, to extend prohibitions on public school classroom instruction regarding gender identity and sexual orientation through eighth grade. The bill passed the House and was received in the Senate.
Disney last week sued the state over losing its self-governing status, a move DeSantis said was “political” and likely to fail.
DeSantis’ “open for business” policies also helped Florida keep its second-best ranking because of the governor’s “popularity among business owners,” the report states. It also notes that DeSantis’ policies specifically helped “kick off a stronger stream of migration to the state from relatively locked-down places including New York.”
During a recent four-country trade mission trip, DeSantis touted Florida’s strong economy and pro-business environment as the main reasons for residents and businesses relocating to Florida.
“We’re the present,” DeSantis told Japanese business leaders in Tokyo. But Florida’s also the future, he said, because more people and businesses are moving there than anywhere else in the U.S.
“We’ve had a really significant migration of productive Americans’ wealth out of states that are governed more in line with high tax, weak on crime, too restrictive on COVID policies, and over the last four or five years we’ve seen those states really hemorrhage people,” he said. “Even states that had always gained populations like California have hemorrhaged productive people.”
As a result, DeSantis said, Florida’s the fastest growing state in the U.S. It’s also the number one state for net in-migration every year since he’s been governor, he said. In the year after COVID-19, Florida had $24 billion in adjusted gross income move into Florida, followed by Texas’ $6.5 billion, he said.
If Florida were its own country, it would be the 13th largest economy in the world at over $1.23 trillion.
The report notes that “While Florida took an economic and physical beating from Hurricane Ian in September 2022, its economy remains strong. Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t shy about promoting Florida’s economic success, noting in May 2022 that private sector employment growth was double that of the national average. Additionally, the state closed out the fiscal year with a record $20 billion in state reserves.”
It also notes that “Financial and tech companies are flocking to cities like Tampa and Orlando, while the Space Coast continues to attract leading aero-space companies,” two key points DeSantis highlighted on his trip. He also expanded Space Florida aerospace and flight partnerships among Floridian and Japanese, South Korean and Israeli companies.
The report also highlights key tax credit and grant programs in Florida that are attractive to CEOs.
It identifies three key tax credit programs, including Florida’s Capital Investment Tax Credit, which offers an annual corporate income tax credit that lasts for up to 20 years. The tax credit applies to projects that create a minimum of 100 jobs and invest at least $25 million in eligible capital costs.
It also highlights Florida’s Urban Job Tax Credit Program, which offers between $500 and $2,000 per qualified job for eligible businesses located in one of 13 designated urban areas, and Florida’s Research and Development Tax Credit, which offers a credit of up to 10% of the excess qualified research expenses.