Hertz relocating to Estero
Gov. Scott, Hertz CEO announce relocation.
NAPLES — When it comes to luring the headquarters of a Fortune 500 company, can Collier County compete with its neighbor to the north?
Jim Moore, director of Lee County’s Economic Development Office, said Hertz’s site selectors toured both counties and in the end financial incentives mattered.
“We negotiated an incentive agreement over the course of three days from a Friday to a Monday morning, because they were working on a deadline of last Friday,” he said.
Collier can’t offer the same financial incentives — and it might not be as quick to roll out the welcome mat either.
Lee approved $4.6 million in incentives to attract Hertz’s worldwide headquarters from Park Ridge, N.J., a relocation that is expected to bring more than 700 high-paying jobs to Estero. Most of that money — $4 million — is coming from the county’s $25 million business incentive program, supported by its general fund.
Collier has nothing like Lee’s aggressive incentive program. It’s unclear if there would be support for one as Collier looks to tweak its economic development strategies.
“Collier County doesn’t have the incentive fund that Fort Myers has and they are able to provide funds for the purpose of luring people to Lee County. When you are in a competition that always makes a big difference,” Commissioner Fred Coyle said.
Coyle recalls what happened when Collier’s now-defunct Economic Development Council made its controversial attempt to lure Jackson Laboratory, a Maine-based genetic research firm, to Ave Maria, which had the potential to create hundreds of jobs.
“There was a lot of criticism of the Jackson Labs opportunity, and the criticism occurred even before any of us knew what kind of deal could be struck,” he said. “So it was clear that the opposition had nothing to do with looking for diversification. It had everything to do with just not providing government funds for incentives. I don’t think there has been much progress in changing that attitude in Collier County.”
He sees Collier growing in a different way, more slowly, with “no major game-changing diversifications,” he said.
Collier Commissioner Donna Fiala said the county still struggles with how to be more business friendly. She said the philosophy toward big businesses has been that “everybody wants to crush them before they even have a proposal.”
“But just maybe after seeing this successful venture, maybe people will realize that we have to be more business friendly in order to attract businesses,” she said of Hertz’s move to Lee. “I’m hoping that we can all learn what we can do in the spirit of working together to overcome some of the obstacles that now seem to stand in our way.”
She said she’s often heard the comment that Collier already has a growing industry, tourism, so why does it need anything else.
“Well, tourism doesn’t have the highest-paying jobs,” she said. “I think it’s essential to our economy, but I would like to see other high-wage jobs created that can bring us to a different economic level.”