04 Jun 2014

ZoomProspector role in Fortune 500 HQ relocation to Florida

Alissa Sklar is the director of marketing for GIS Planning. She has extensive experience as a consultant, writer and educator in the fields of technology and communications. Dr. Sklar has a Ph.D. in Communications from the University of Massachusetts of Amherst, and has as worked closely with B2Bs and economic development agencies to assess, develop and implement social media strategies for business development.

The true test of any online site selection tool is how it figures into actual investment success stories. That context is a critical complement to descriptions of features and user interface, because it’s the reason ZoomProspector Enterprise matters to our clients.

So when rental car giant Hertz Global Holdings (Fortune 500 Rank #264) announced in 2013 that it was building their new world headquarters in Lee County, Fla, we were pleased to hear the ZoomProspector technology behind PoweringFlorida.com played a central role.

“Hertz is really in my mind the poster child for how PoweringFlorida.com works to support Florida’s business attraction efforts, ” explained Crystal Stiles, Economic Development Project Manager at Florida Power& Light. “Both our website and the PoweringFlorida® Resource Center made a big difference in [the Lee County Economic Development Organization’s] ability to quickly and effectively respond to questions the company had.”

Hertz’s move to Lee County is big news for the region. It’s the first Fortune 500 company to call Estero home, and is expected to bring 700 jobs to the county, and an estimated $300-million per year for the local economy, taking into account the ripple effect of such a sizeable investment.

Florida economic development Hertz

"We are so grateful for this welcome to the Sunshine State," Hertz CEO Mark Frissora told the crowd at the May 2013 announcement at Southwest Florida International Airport. "We did not make the decision to relocate lightly. We wanted to know that Florida was not only attractive to us as a company, but also to our employees."

The economic development pros at Lee County Economic Development Office worked hard to develop a solid business case for Hertz so they could make that decision, and they relied heavily on ZoomProspector to do so.

“At the very first meeting we had with the site consultants from McCallum Sweeney, they wanted to know who were the corporate headquarters that were here, where they were, and how many employees they had,” explained Brent Barkway, business development director at Lee County EDO. “So one of the first things we did was map out what headquarter locations we had, how many employees, whatever wage information we had, and then show them in a presentation where these other headquarters were.

“The reason that was important is that, from a workforce standpoint, they would need a sizable number of employees, they wanted to know where those employees would be coming from and what talent was here already.”

Stiles says the information easily accessible on PoweringFlorida.com allowed the ED staff to quickly and effectively prepare detailed business cases. “Before the company even went out on familiarization visits, the Fort Myers staff was able to show them a tremendous amount of data around each address. The depth of information we had to show them is so much more than anything we’d ever had before.”

“As a follow up to that, because there wasn’t any one site they wanted, we could analyze data around each possible location. Workforce was key. They needed to know where everyone lived and demographics, and that’s where the  ZoomProspector application really came in handy. They knew what areas they could pull from, what educational level, what sort of commute times they’d need.” Brent adds that the embedded Lee County tool wasn’t just used internally, as the site selectors were making use of it too.

“I was very impressed [with ZoomProspector]," explains Brent Kettler, a technology professional at Lee County EDO, who regularly uses the tool with other site selectors and potential clients aside from Hertz. “If we have to go to someone and generate a report for a property the client is looking for with the data around it, the aesthetic appeal of that report is so important. I’m picky about that. The site selectors are too. So I was really impressed with what it kicks out.”

Brent Barkway agrees: “Apart from Hertz, we’ve since used it for RFPs, and we know if it’s not easy to read and understand, people are going to pass it over very quickly. So that’s where GIS Planning has a real strength, in that you make the data easily digestible.”

He adds that the Lee County Business EDO has found very specific uses for it. “It’s a great tool to really get down in the weeds. This is as useful for small companies as it is for big companies [if they are researching] information on education, for example, or call centers, which require a lot of workforce. They need to know where they can draw from, because people who work for call centers are only willing to drive so far.”

Stiles expresses satisfaction that both PoweringFlorida.com and the Lee County Business tools worked so well in tandem for this big success.  “The Lee County team was an early adopter of the PoweringFlorida® tools. They leverage the data available relentlessly to their advantage.”


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