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Hertz welcomed in Lee County, rosy outlook for all

Gov celebrates deal, and flower flap revealed

May 8, 2013

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Friendly business climate lures Hertz to Lee Count...: Hertz's global headquaters moving to Southwest Florida. Video by Guy Tubbs/
Hertz CEO Mark Frissora, left, and Florida Governor Rick Scott are surrounded by media after a press conference at Southwest Florida International Airport announcing the company's move to Southwest Florida. Hertz is moving its world headquarters to Estero. At center is Daniel Dosoretz, CEO of 21st Oncology. / Andrew West/


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The deal to bring Hertz to Lee County will cost the state an additional $68 million in tax credits over the next 20 years, but Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday said it was worth it.

“This is a big victory for Florida and a big victory for Lee County, and we have to make sure it is a big victory for Hertz,” Scott said from a podium at the Hertz service counter at Southwest Florida International Airport. More than 200 business executives, legislators and county officials ringed the stage.

The deal, shrouded in secrecy so the name of the company wouldn’t be revealed until Tuesday, was eight months in the making and was nearly derailed in the final weeks because of a goodwill gesture by a freshman legislator from Fort Myers.

Last week, even before Hertz’s name was revealed, state and county officials described it as costing $4.6 million in county money with an additional $12 million in state funding for a total of $16.6 million.

But Hertz also will be able to use the tax credits to pay for the estimated $68 million construction cost of its planned 300,000-square-foot headquarters at the southeast corner of U.S. 41 and Williams Road in Estero, company vice president for corporate affairs Richard Broome said Tuesday.

“It’ll be spread out over 20 years starting once our headquarters building is completed,” he said. “It’s a maximum of $3.4 million a year for 20 years, based on the total investment in the facility.”

A release Monday from Enterprise Florida, a public/private organization that helps facilitate corporate investment in the state, said only that Hertz “could be eligible for certain corporate tax credits up to $3.4 million a year.” Enterprise Florida chief Gray Swoope called the deal an "incredibly important accomplishment."

State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that’s part of the deal worked out with Hertz by Gov. Rick Scott’s office — although the tax credit program requires the Legislature to sign off on the governor’s decision.

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“We have to exercise judgment on which ones to take on,” Negron said. “We want to be very cautious to only participate in relocations that will provide significant jobs for Floridians.”

Hertz CEO Mark P. Frissora vowed to be a good neighbor and a strong corporate citizen.

“We will validate your sound judgment,” Frissora said. “Florida is a great place to run a business and to raise a family, and we are happy to be here.”

But Lee County commission Chairman Cecil Pendergrass said the deal — in the works for almost eight months — nearly broke down two weeks ago when state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, sent Hertz CEO MarkFrissora a dozen roses and note telling him “can’t wait to be your ambassador.”

State and local economic development officials had signed a confidentiality notice not to disclose the name of the company.

“Anything that took place in negotiations in this incredible project is not going to be discussed by me,” Fitzenhagen said Tuesday. “The only think I can say is that I am extremely pleased that Hertz is here, and they decided that this was the right place for them and Fort Myers is the winner today.”

Jim Moore, economic development director for Lee County, said he learned there were issues with a confidentiality breach on April 26, while traveling to Jacksonville.

“She (Fitzenhagen) didn’t understand the implications of that gesture,” Moore said. “It’s my understanding that she had already talked to the governor’s office, Enterprise Florida and (Speaker of the House) Will Weatherford’s office before I reached her. By the time I spoke to her, she understood the sensitivity of the situation.”

Moore said he wasn’t asked to help smooth things over with Hertz.

“Whatever happened, it wasn’t fatal and the company is here,” Moore said.

Kevin Hawkesworth, CEO of Bonita Springs-based Shaw Development, said the relocation of Hertz here has benefits that extend well beyond the direct economic impact.

“This is the best economic news we have had in years,” said Hawkesworth, whose company makes parts for clients such as Caterpillar and John Deere. “We get asked all of the time why we are here and this helps validate our decision to be here.”

Nearby property owners will benefit from Hertz’s planned purchase of the 34-acre parcel, one neighboring landowner said.

“I think it’ll be beneficial,” said Howard Gutman, president of The Lutgert Cos., which owns land on the northeast quadrant of the intersection.

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