Friday, March 16, 2012
At The Closing Table
From the March/April issue of
Carmenza Gonzalez is president of CZA, Inc., a global development firms that focuses on bringing international businesses to Orlando. Orlando REALTOR® spoke with her about the persuasive points our market offers to an international company debating the decision to expand or relocate to Orlando.
What is the outlook for the relocation of international companies to Orlando?
Orlando’s attractiveness to international companies has grown so strong that I believe the city is poised to take over Miami’s place as the state’s top draw. There are multiple elements that international companies considering relocation to Orlando find appealing, such as its rate of job creation; presence of a qualified workforce; and centralized location. In fact, one of our local economists has predicted that Orlando is going to become the fastest growing area in Florida due to its geographic location.
Does Orlando’s housing market play a role an international company’s decision to — or not to — relocate here?
Absolutely, and that’s without even taking into consideration financial factors such as favorable rates of exchange or the area’s very affordable home values.
International companies see in Orlando two very important elements that those who live here may take for granted: security (always at the top of the list) and space. Let’s look at Spain and Brazil, as examples. Compared to the overcrowded conditions in those countries, Orlando’s spaciousness and lovely neighborhoods make it a relative paradise to the families who will be relocating with the company. I’ve seen companies even choose Orlando over New York City for those reasons.
While most of a relocating company’s new jobs will be filled by the local workforce (that’s the point), some current employees do make the move with the company. Relocation decision-makers don’t just look at the business side, they also look at the employee side: where children are going to live, what type of housing is available, etc. There are many housing options available in Orlando, and incoming buyers can (in most cases) buy so much more home for the money here than in their countries of origin.
What important skills or resources do REALTORS® most need or order to serve international clients?
In order for REALTORS® to serve international clients, it is important that they be prepared. They need to learn about the buyer’s country of origin: population, geography, religion, traditions, politics. Familiarity with the country’s typical lifestyle — such as a preference for multigenerational households — plus the client’s personal lifestyle is particularly helpful.
Knowledge of gestures and customs and body language is absolutely critical. Etiquette and protocol guides are readily available, and it’s actually kind of fun to learn.
It’s also helpful for REALTORS® to be able to discuss the tax breaks and incentives that are offered to companies who relocate to Orlando. Incentives vary according to the industry, the number of jobs expected to be created, three-year growth expectations, etc.
Tax Exemptions and Incentives
Tax exemptions and other incentives offered to international companies considering relocation to Orlando vary by factors such as the type of industry, the number of jobs to be created, and the company’s growth predictions. Companies are frequently proffered a mix that incorporates local, state, and, in some cases, federal programs such as:
*Industry-specific Incentives - This category of incentive applies to industries listed by Enterprise Florida, Inc. A good example is the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program, which is available for companies that create high wage jobs in targeted, high value-added industries.
*Workforce-training Incentives – This type of incentive offers two employee training programs to the relocating company: the Incumbent Worker Training Program (provides training to currently employed workers) and the Quick Response Training Program (provides customer-service based training to assist new value-added businesses and to help expansion of existing businesses.
*Site-specific Incentives – A good example of this type of incentive is the Brownfield Program, which induces businesses to locate in industrial or commercial sites that are underutilized due to an actual or perceived environmental contamination. Similarly, businesses are offered incentives to locate within an Enterprise Zone, which is a specific geographic area target for economic revitalization (Apopka, Orlando, and Kissimmee each have an Enterprise Zone).
*Infrastructure Incentives – An example of this type of incentive includes support from the Economic Development Transportation Fund, a tool designed to alleviate transportation problems that adversely impact a company’s location or expansion decision.
*Tax Exemptions – Exemptions offered to relocating companies vary by industry and depend on whether the company in consideration is a new offshoot of an existing company or an expansion. For example, a manufacturing company could be offered a tax exemption on machinery and equipment necessary for either initial operation or for increasing production.