hen a global company specializing in decision data makes a headquarters move, the antennae of financial and professional services company executives perk up.
Dun & Bradstreet, whose analytics are relied on by 90% of Fortune 500 firms, has been providing business intelligence for nearly 200 years. So they knew what they were doing when they announced in 2021 a world headquarters move from Short Hills, New Jersey, to Jacksonville, Florida.
Supported by Enterprise Florida and the City of Jacksonville, among others, the relocation, which became official in February, brings with it a $75 million investment and will result in the creation of 500 new jobs with an average wage of $77,000. The company is moving into Town Center II in the St. Johns Town Center development in one of the fastest growing areas of Jacksonville.
I spoke to Dun & Bradstreet CFO Bryan Hipsher about why this 925-mile move down the East Coast makes strategic sense for his company, which saw more than $2.1 billion in revenues in 2021. He immediately cited one “pretty fantastic” fact:
“We don’t even have the name on the building yet,” he said, “and we have 100 employees in the Jacksonville area already. Around 30 are relocated and the rest are new hires.” Among those relocated are the entire executive team.
The multifaceted moving decision was the result of a top-to-bottom business review concurrent with the company going private in 2019.
“We had the ability to take a fresh perspective,” Hipsher says, a process that the pandemic ironically abetted. “During the pandemic, we shifted to a full work-from-home model. It was the ideal situation to evaluate your real estate footprint. If you were going to make a change, that was the time to make a change.”
The team evaluated D&B’s footprint, including “areas of the country we did not have a strong toehold in,” Hipsher says, studying such factors as cost of real estate, cost of living and therefore cost of talent, and balancing the financial perspective with the people perspective. Among locations surveyed were Texas, California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Conversations ensued with state and local entities about cost of living, employment pools, employee-friendly surroundings and the tax environment on both the corporate and personal sides.
“Jacksonville was very decisive and very aggressive in working with local and state partners in providing incentives,” Hipsher says. “It made the decision from a financial perspective quite obvious.”
Dun & Bradstreet’s $75 million, 500-job initial investment in a relocated world headquarters is one of the projects powering the Jacksonville region’s rising economy.
Photos courtesy of Visit Jacksonville and Dun & Bradstreet
There was also a significant precedent, part of the wave of financial services and technology companies that has washed across Florida in the past quarter-century: “Twenty-five years ago, Fidelity Financial moved from Santa Barbara to Jacksonville,” Hipsher recounts, “and that brought FIS and Black Knight. You saw what the city and state did from a financial perspective, and we felt that same energy and support as we were going through the process. Enterprise Florida became part of the conversation very early on.”
Indeed, the project was part of a year that saw Enterprise Florida and its statewide partners welcome 63 economic development projects representing 12,108 new and retained jobs and more than $2 billion in capital investment.
Hipsher’s connections go beyond project negotiations: He matriculated and earned his MBA at Jacksonville University, where he also played varsity basketball before starting his career in the area.
“We’re proud to have him highly engaged in our University now as a member of our Davis College of Business & Technology Advisory Board,” explains Jacksonville University President Tim Cost, himself a 1981 alumnus who played varsity sports and even pitched a no-hitter for the school. He says decision-makers at Dun & Bradstreet were “very comfortable with the offerings that a world-class business would be primarily interested in as they evaluate a new home city — location, governance, taxes, land and building availability, downtown and surrounding resources, air and ground transportation support and the like.” The next level of scrutiny, he says, “was to gain a better understanding of what we would call ‘culture and lifestyle.’ What kind of universities could the children of executives attend? What kind of colleges could employees go to for advanced degrees? Are partnerships easily established? What about the amenities offered by great cities such as arts, culture, sports and events? Where and how is the growth going to occur? Is there essential infrastructure support? Things like that. We are pleased to say discussions went very well, and we are thrilled to have Dun & Bradstreet in Jacksonville. This is a city on the rise. Dun & Bradstreet identified that trajectory and they understand the potential.”
The private university Cost leads is small enough that it can pivot quickly to opportunity, offering recently hatched nursing and cybersecurity programs and a forthcoming college of law in partnership with the city. The EPIC (Entrepreneurism, Policy, Innovation, and Commerce) Program at the school to attract, develop, and retain in-state, highly qualified graduates in fields vital to Florida’s economic prosperity was established through the support of Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature and has allowed program development to accelerated in fields such as fintech, professional services and healthcare.
“In particular, Jacksonville University is advancing the interests of the financial technology industry in the region thanks to EPIC,” Cost says, “which provided critical seed funding for new programming to meet local and statewide needs in this area. This includes graduate and undergraduate programs in business analytics, specialized programming in computer science and cybersecurity.”
Hipsher says one of the differences from the Florida and Jacksonville team was “they didn’t just think about it from a tax and cash incentives perspective, but asked, ‘How do we make Dun & Bradstreet a better company?’ That was a different perspective than a lot of other locations.”
“Financial services executives are looking for connectivity,” says Enterprise Florida Senior Vice President of Business Development Destin Wells. “One of the core competencies of Enterprise Florida is facilitation and connectivity,” whether it involves higher education, government agencies or the ecosystem of organizations, institutions and service providers companies need to thrive. “Their ability to get plugged in and socialized and have a holistic experience is important. It’s something we are good at at the state level.”
As for incentives, says Wells, “In Florida, we build those into your economy and your business climate, and make all businesses beneficiaries.” There’s no corporate income tax. Regulations and fees are structured so that they’re a bottom-line number. The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund is customizable to the needs of industry.
“Bottom line,” says Wells, “is that Florida looks really good on the bottom line.”
When a Move Down the East Coast is a Step Up
Forbes in 2021 called Tampa the No. 1 emerging tech city in the nation. Brookings in March identified Miami and Orlando among nine tech-sector “rising stars” that grew as fast as tech superstar metros in 2020. According to Brookings’ analysis of Emsi Burning Glass data, South Florida’s compound annual growth rate for tech employment was 6.6% between 2015 and 2019, tying for No. 1 among those nine rising stars. Orlando wasn’t far behind at 5.8%.
Subsea cables fortify data-focused enterprises in South Florida and beyond.
Map courtesy of TeleGeography
The convergence of tech and financial services only figures to boost both — especially where the literal words overlap in fintech. Florida’s $43 billion in services exports in 2019 — good for No. 4 in the nation and up from $31 billion in 2010 — included $9 billion in business, professional and technical services and nearly $2.3 billion in financial services. Judging from new arrivals on the scene, those numbers will continue to climb upward.
The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County (BDB) estimates that 100 asset management firms, including hedge funds, have opened offices in the past four years in Palm Beach County, where they’re part of an enormous cluster of 2,485 financial services firms, including newly arrived military veteran mortgage lender NewDay USA, which announced last year it will create 600 new jobs over two years at what the Maryland-based company called a “second headquarters” in downtown West Palm Beach.
CEO Rob Posner tells me young college graduates were a leading criterion for his team’s site search, whether they graduate in the region or flock to it. Either way, he says, “Florida has the opportunity to be the new California. We see a real opportunity for college graduates to be looking at Florida as an exciting place to live, work and play, where there’s going to be a lot of job creation.”
Posner says on his team’s first visit to West Palm, they were greeted by Mayor Keith James, BDB President and CEO Kelly Smallridge and her entire board, and representatives from The Related Companies, formed 50 years ago by Chairman and Founder Stephen M. Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins.
“They wanted us in that community,” Posner says, and laid out the welcome mat in terms of helping NewDay leadership and employees find housing and scout out schools. “It took a couple of months for the city to allocate $1.8 million toward job training. We’ve been in Maryland since 1999, and both the state and the county we’re in haven’t offered any such contribution.”
NewDay USA’s welcome has been so warm it’s considering bigger quarters. “We’re currently in active negotiations with Enterprise Florida and talking about building a new building next door,” Posner says.
Like Dun & Bradstreet, NewDay also will benefit from a higher education partnership, in this case a new University of Florida Master’s in Advanced Sciences campus “outside our door,” says Posner. “NewDay was early. You’re going to see the big five technology companies all be there. It’s a new paradigm, combining where employers, universities and young people want to be.”
Marie Chinnici-Everitt, DTCC
‘Wall Street South’? Yes, That’s Accurate
Jersey City–based Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. first moved to Tampa in 2004, choosing the region over Atlanta and another Florida finalist: Jacksonville. The company expanded in Tampa a decade later. Its depository provides custody and asset servicing for securities issues from 177 countries and territories valued at U.S. $87.1 trillion.
“DTCC officially opened our Tampa facility in 2005 with 300 employees,” says Marie Chinnici-Everitt, DTCC’s chief marketing officer and regional manager for its Tampa office. “Today, we have become one of the fastest growing locations, on par with our corporate headquarters, with over 1,300 staff representing nearly 20% of the company’s total global population of 7,500 staff working in 14 countries ... Over the years, our Tampa location has expanded to include representation from virtually all of our businesses and support functions.”
JobsEQ statistics shared by Destin Wells from Q3 of 2021 indicate total financial and insurance firm employment of 440,700 in the state, with strong growth trends in such subsectors as mortgage processing, insurance agencies and carriers, and commercial banking. It’s forecast that some 25,000 jobs in the overall financial services and insurance fields will be created in the state over the next five years. Workforce development and credentialing programs that Enterprise Florida can help offset are busy in such fields as mortgage and financial planning. And the pandemic has fed growth in both the sector and the state.
Destin Wells says the longer-term trend of financial services firms seeking out the warmer business climate of Florida was only helped by the pandemic, when remote working and increased mobility on the part of workers made Florida attractive. “Florida has the inherent advantage of no personal income tax,” he points out. The attraction continues for companies too. “Chicago and New York are the two main markets seeing financial services institutions leaving and coming to Florida,” he says. “Wall Street South is now a term people recognize and understand.”
Based on different responses to COVID in other states, “a lot of folks found their way to Florida,” Wells says. “That gave people a dip of the toes in the water. A lot of people liked it.” Some may stay year-round, some may work in digital nomad mode, with Florida one of two or three stops. The paradigm shift makes things hard to measure in economic development, Wells says, but “we feel pretty decent. I’m sure there is leakage of jobs that would be there but for remote working, but we are a remote work destination of choice. For every one of those leaked jobs, there are three or four based somewhere else and remoting here.”
And sometimes those people dipping their toes are CEOs with homes in the state already.
“They no longer want to get on a plane and go back to the mothership up north,” Wells says, and they say, ‘Let’s just move the entire thing down.’”
That’s why Florida’s financial services economy is moving up.
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of Enterprise Florida. For more information, contact Natalie McElwee at 850-530-2701 or by email at email@example.com. On the web, go to www.enterpriseflorida.com.