NAPLES — It’s the economic equivalent of Dunk City.
Hertz Corp. deciding to move its rental car corporate headquarters from New Jersey elevates Lee County to a national stage, said Robert Simpson, president and CEO of LeeSar.
“People will now look at Lee County who have never thought of relocating here because of what Hertz did today,” Simpson said Tuesday.
The Fort Myers-based LeeSar — a health-care supply company — is usually among the top dozen Southwest Florida companies based on annual revenue.
In March, the Dunk City name was affiliated with the Florida Gulf Coast University men’s basketball team’s success in the NCAA tournament and became a national story.
“Companies that never looked at Lee County are saying, ‘Where the heck is Fort Myers?’ ” Simpson said.
He said he attended the Hertz news conference Tuesday at Southwest Florida International Airport, where he handed Hertz CEO Mark P. Frissora his business card.
“I told him, ‘I lived what you’re about to do,’ “ said Simpson, who moved LeeSar offices from Lehigh Acres to Fort Myers. “You can deliver a business here, but you have to make them feel welcome.”
The region offers what many parts of the U.S. cannot — besides beaches and sunshine, area executives say.
Southwest Florida International Airport is easily accessible compared to big-city transportation, said Eric Waller, Naples-based Health Management Associates senior vice president and chief marketing officer. Before Hertz, HMA was the only Fortune 500 company in Southwest Florida.
Corporate office workers will find big city amenities without the bustling lifestyle, Waller said.
“Housing is affordable, the weather is great, and we have good education,” he said. “I think what’s going to happen is you’re going to reach critical mass, and they’ll see businesses like HMA and Hertz here, and people will ask, ‘Are there reasons we ought to go look?’ ”
At NeoGenomics, another large Southwest Florida company, officials never second-guessed the decision to place its corporate offices in Fort Myers.
“It’s an underappreciated area of the country to locate businesses,” said Steven Jones, NeoGenomics’ executive vice president for finance.
The company, which handles testing for pathologists, clinicians, oncologists and hospitals throughout the country, reported revenue of $15.7 million in the first quarter of this year.
“And contrary to popular belief, it’s not too expensive to move people into the area,” Jones said of Southwest Florida. “It provides a nice, attractive place for executives to relocate to.”
Peter Dys, president and chief executive officer of Shell Point Retirement Community near Sanibel Island, which is among the largest employers in Lee County, said the Hertz move is welcomed for helping to diversify the workforce.
“It is the kind of business we need to sustain variability,” he said.
Simpson said it’s essential for local government and the community to rally behind a business for it to succeed. Last month, Lee County commissioners awarded $4 million to Hertz, which at the time was only known to the public as “Project A.”
“The question I asked at (the Hertz news conference) is what’s next?” Simpson said. “You don’t lose the momentum.”
The next step is for elected officials to identify corporations looking to relocate and work with their consultants, he said.
A Boston native, Simpson recalled New England winters and the traffic gridlock so it’s Southwest Florida’s job to convey life here to companies itching to move.
“Sell that message,” he said.