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No surprise: Florida ranked No. 2 on CEO mag’s best for business list (again)

by | May 3, 2021


A decade after Florida first edged North Carolina out of the number two spot on CEO Magazine’s 2012 Best States for Business list, the Sunshine state scored its tenth straight number two ranking. Then-Governor Rick Scott often touted the rankings, and his friendly competition with Texas, which has been ranked #1 on the list even longer. Ever since, that lead has never been smaller thanks most recently to Governor Ron DeSantis and his open-for-business posture during the pandemic.

It’s that posture which holds much promise for the future of Florida’s economy, as the CEO Mag story points out:

Governors take note: Our survey—of 383 CEOs in March 2021— finds the nation’s business leaders an increasingly restless bunch thanks to Covid. They’re open to all kinds of new ideas about how—and, more to the point—where to do business.

Forty-four percent of those we surveyed report that they’re “more open than before to examining new locations” for their business, while 34 percent said they’re “considering shifting [or] opening significant operations [or] facilities in a new state.” In a world of remote work, reshuffled markets and flat-out rethinking of nearly every aspect of business, the hearts and minds of CEOs are very much up for grabs.

In addition to being slightly less open than Florida, the Lone Star State also suffered a major setback with its deregulated energy market that lead to disastrous power outages across broad swaths of the state, but even that embarrassing black eye wasn’t enough to dethrone the reigning business champion.

Even so, DeSantis undoubtedly deserves credit for taking the political risk to keep the state open, and he received his share of accolades for efforts to lure business in this year’s story:

Florida certainly got the memo. From high-profile headhunting for high-net worth Wall Streeters to Governor Ron DeSantis’s flaunting of open beaches—and open businesses—throughout the pandemic, the Sunshine State is the clear winner in last year’s economic perception derby. Jonathan Chariff, CEO of South Motors Group, says Florida’s response to the pandemic has been “a tremendous factor,” in his decision to expand there—some $40 million in new BMW and Honda dealerships in Miami. “Florida is blowing up. Except for the extra traffic, it’s great.”

One economic region that really stood out in the write up: Orlando’s booming tech sector, in which CEO Magazine’s write up should be enough to make us blush:

And while Orlando’s tourism economy is just starting to rebound, the city that Mickey built is now a true comer against traditional tech outposts. Major homegrown digital companies such as Luminar, maker of lidar for autonomous vehicles, and Fattmerchant, a competitor to Square in digital payments, “have created a lot of new millionaires in Central Florida,” says Tim Giuliani, head of the Orlando Economic Partnership. The area was pursuing as many new-business leads in the first quarter of 2021 as it had in the comparable period of 2019.

The survey compiles rankings submitted by CEOs measuring a wide range of metrics examining taxes and regulations, living environment, and workforce quality, among others. The full rankings can be viewed here.

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