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Friendly business climate lures Hertz to Lee Count...
Friendly business climate lures Hertz to Lee Count...: Hertz's global headquaters moving to Southwest Florida. Video by Guy Tubbs/news-press.com
Hertz CEO Mark Frissora speaks at a press conference at Southwest Florida International Airport announcing the company's move to Southwest Florida. Hertz is moving its world headquarters to Estero. / Andrew West/news-press.com
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In-depth coverage: Special page on Hertz's impact and what it means for SW Fla.

Reaction: Commissioners | Bonita | Estero | Business leaders

Poll: Did the announcement of Hertz coming to SW Fla. live up to your expectations? Highlights: Gov. Scott officially announces Hertz move

Mark Frissora, Hertz CEO, said at this morning’s press conference that his company is experiencing 23 percent growth.

He spoke of Florida’s pivotal position in the tourism industry, saying that 89 million visitors came to Florida last year, a record for the state.

“Florida rents more cars per capita than any other state,” Frissora said. Orlando Airport is the single largest car rental site, bringing in $400 million in car rentals per year, he said.

In an exclusive conference call Monday with The News-Press, Frissora expanded upon why Southwest Florida was a natural choice.

“Again, I’ll bring this down to a combination of things,” he said. “One is quality of life, one is the industry is travel and tourism and that was a big draw for Florida.

The other issue is Southwest Florida has a long way to go for growth. There is a lot of untapped potential. We wanted to be a significant entity in the community. We can draw from that community and not have to compete with 20 other large companies.”

1:29 p.m. update

Everyone was beaming at the love fest that was the formal announcement of Hertz’s global headquarters moving to Southwest Florida.

“Florida is the center of the U.S. if not the worldwide travel industry,” said Hertz CEO Mark Frissora.

Area politicians from the governor on down were at hand, crowding the Hertz rental counter at Southwest Florida International Airport.

They were tickled to death.

“This is the most significant economic event in the history of Lee County,” said Frank Mann, Lee County commissioner. He means since the county was founded in 1887, he said.

Mann said the commissioners were finally notified of the name of the company Monday afternoon and sworn to secrecy. “But I did slip it,” at about 10:30 p.m. in pillow talk with his wife.

“For Estero, I think it’s going to be huge, said Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero. “It diversifies the local economy,” brings jobs that pay significantly higher than tourism jobs, and moroe people will be coming into his district for the convenience of working nearby, Rodrigues said.

Cape Coral Councilman Kevin McGrail was looking forward to some economic impact on his city across the Caloosahatchee River.

“I’m hoping that all the workers coming from the company recognize that one of the best communities to raise families happens to be Cape Coral.”

Gray Swoope, president and CEO of Enterprise Florida Inc., said the process of bringing Hertz here started in October and included lots of weekend conversations. Enterprise Florida is a public-private partnership that is the primary organization devoted to statewide economic development.

The state found out about the possibility when McCallum Sweeney Consulting called them on behalf of Hertz, Swoope said.

The firm, based in Greenville, S.C., provides site selection, incentive negotiation and economic development consulting services to leading companies, according to the company website.

Swoope also said that he and the governor talked to a second company the same day that the Hertz CEO came in for a meeting.

“We’re going to win that one too, governor,” Swoope said, hinting of more companies to come.

Timeline: Almost a century of Hertz

Map: Proposed location of Hertz world headquarters in Lee County

Quality of life, business climate, tourism drew Hertz to Lee County

Quality of life, business climate and the state’s strong tourism industry helped persuade the company to relocate to Florida. The move made sense after Hertz acquired Dollar Thrifty and wanted to consolidate operations, he said.

“Lee County is one of the top three counties in Florida for having top job growth,” Scott said. “Lee County is doing the right things.”

Hertz employs 3,000 people in Florida, Frissora said.

The deal was under negotiation for nine months but was sealed by the recent approval of $19 million in economic development incentives from the State of Florida and Lee County — $14.4 million and $4.6 million, respectively.

Hertz will receive $7 million up front from the state. If the company spends $60 million to build a 300,000 square-foot facility and hires 700 employees by 2015, it will be eligible for the entire amount.
The building will be located in Estero, but there are three proposed locations for a temporary headquarters, including in North Naples, Frissora said.

The News-Press had exclusive interviews with Scott and Frissora on Monday, which appeared in print and online on Tuesday.

The company’s identity had been kept a secret until Tuesday, due to exemptions in the public records law concerning economic development.

Hertz will be the 16th Fortune 500 company in Florida, according to this year’s rankings. At 700 employees, it would be Lee County’s 16th largest employer, according to figures from the Fort Myers Regional Economic Partnership, the county economic development office.

Local reaction

Local business leaders and elected officials on Tuesday expressed elation at the news of Hertz’s relocation.

“There has never been a more significant day in the history of Lee County since 1887 when it was founded, nothing compares,” said Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann.

Mann called Lee County’s deal to move Hertz’s corporate headquarters here a defining moment, bringing another attribute to an expanding county.
He added that Hertz adds to Lee’s economic lineup that includes spring training facilities for the Minnesota Twins’ and Boston Red Sox’s spring and Florida Gulf Coast University.

Lee County Commission Chair Cecil Pendergrass praised Hertz’s planned relocation as an economic boon for Lee County and its struggling tax base.
In addition to the $4.6 million commissioners agreed to pay Hertz, Pendergrass said slashing impact fees earlier this year most likely played a role in the company’s decision to pick Lee.

“They save a lot of money coming here,” Pendergrass said.

Lee charges developers impact fees to build roads and other amenities that support a growing population.

Bonita Springs Mayor Ben Nelson believes the arrival of Hertz will be the beginning of a trend of companies moving to the area.

"Southwest Florida is perfect for these corporate headquarters because of the lifestyle that we offer, because of the tax structure, because of our business-friendly nature," he said. "I think it bodes well for Bonita Springs and for south Lee County in general."

Christine Ross, president and CEO of the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Bonita Springs-Estero Economic Development Council, concurred with Nelson.

"There are a lot of states out there trying very hard to attract companies. The competition is fierce," she said. "It's a great opportunity for the community to have a Fortune 500 corporate headquarters here providing year-round jobs with benefits and for them to be able to enjoy the qualities of our work force."

Even though Hertz picked Estero over Naples, where Frissora has a condo, Mike Reagen is just happy Hertz chose Southwest Florida.

Reagan is the president and CEO of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. “I think this is just thrilling for all of us,” he said. “I think everyone benefits from this,” he said. “I think it’s absolutely wonderful.”


Overall, he said Southwest Florida will benefit from having global money brought into the local economy.

Additional jobs will create supplemental employment. For instance, delis may open around the new headquarters to feed its employees and additional staff may need to be hired to clean the building, said Tim Rose, president of the Fort Myers-based independent franchise of Arthur Rutenberg Homes.

“I’m excited,” he said. “Anytime we can get new jobs in our area, it’s fantastic.”


Although the relocation of Hertz won’t likely provide a boom for the construction industry, Rose said it will definitely have a good impact on the industry – and the overall economy.


Joni Norton, consulting partner at Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Co., P.A., said businesses might take this as a positive sign and decide to expand their operations.
“Other businesses will feel it could be a good time to grow in Southwest Florida as well,” she said.


“From what I’ve heard, it’s higher-than-average paying jobs, so that’s exceptional,” said Ted Todd, a senior account agent with Allstate and owner of Bonita Springs-based Ted Todd Insurance.

The average salary of the Hertz jobs will be $102,000.

“To see a major national brand like that come to this community, it’s exciting to think that could be the start of something very special,” Todd said.
It will also help existing businesses by having so many people move into Southwest Florida. It may even help his company by giving it the opportunity to insure some of these newcomers.


Debi Montenieri, president of the Estero Chamber of Commerce said, “It’ll be a tremendous boost for the economy in Estero and Southwest Florida in general.”

Through her connections with the community and county government, Montenieri said she had heard that a “mystery company” was looking into Estero. She’s glad Hertz chose the area and hopes it will join the chamber.

Hertz will benefit the economy in Estero and Southwest Florida by giving a boost to housing – as the new employees will need somewhere to live – and improving employment. It will also boost other community businesses as these new residents will make purchases in malls, grocery stores, etc.

- Reporters Andrea Rumbaugh, Dick Hogan, Thomas Himes and Christina Cepero contributed to this report.

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