Tallahassee [Florida Trend]
(Florida Trend Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) For decades, Tallahassee's economy revolved around the football season and the legislative session. Civic leaders touted the city's small-town feel and an economy that was less susceptible to the booms and busts of bigger cities with more robust private sectors.
But when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush began a push to downsize state government in 1999, eliminating more than 15,000 positions over eight years, it was a wake-up call to Tallahassee's business community, which realized it could no longer rely on state government to keep its economy stable.
Civic leaders began an effort to diversify the economy, expand tourism behind the football season and encourage more young professionals to stay while also launching a campaign to portray Tallahassee as the ideal spot for Baby Boomer retirees.
Diversification takes time. Tallahassee's private sector is still dominated by small businesses, and state jobs still fuel the economy, with about 30% of Tallahassee's workforce employed by federal, state or local governments. Business leaders pitch the reliance on state-funded jobs as one of Tallahassee's unique strengths.
But in the last decade, a half-dozen companies from a diverse array of industries have been recruited to Tallahassee, bringing more than 500 jobs. Bing Energy arrived from California to manufacture parts for hydrogen fuel cells; law firm Kaye Scholer brought administrative jobs from other out-of-state locations; Danfoss Turbocor decided to make its air compressor technology in Tallahassee instead of Canada.
In addition, the area is taking better advantage of the thousands of highly educated students pumped into the workforce each year by Florida A&M University, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College. In the past, these graduates typically went in search of jobs in Tampa, Orlando and Miami. But recent efforts to plug the brain drain appear to be working. From 2005 to 2010, the number of 25- to 34-year-olds living in Tallahassee grew by 20%, attracted by the city's quality of life, jobs and more social opportunities.
Reflecting the presence of more young professionals, the city's Midtown area now has new bars, restaurants and upscale shops. The city invested in sidewalk and lighting improvements along Gaines Street, which runs between Florida A&M University and Florida State University, to make it pedestrian friendly, which led to development of a major new mixed-use residential project. The 12-acre Cascades Park on the fringes of downtown will open later this year and has an amphitheater for live music events. And agroup called "Imagine Tallahassee" is raising $200,000 from the private sector to increase economic vitality in the city. This plan will be offered in conjunction with an effort to dedicate 15% of the proceeds from an upcoming sales tax extension to economic development projects.
Business leaders say there is an awareness now that the oft-repeated mantra of its a great place to raise a family," doesn't work for every young professional. Yet there is also recognition that Tallahassee offers a different lifestyle to employers and their workforces than Miami or Orlando, with good public schools, affordable housing, low crime, short commutes, Southern hospitality and the energy of a city striving to reinvent itself.
Population & Demographics
> Population: 182,965
> Population growth: 20.4% since 2000
Tallahassee ... 53.3%
Statewide ... 57.9%
Tallahassee ... 35
Statewide ... 16
Tallahassee ... 6.3
Statewide ... 22.5
Tallahassee ... 8.0
Statewide ... 19.2
> Students enrolled at Florida State University (41,000) and Florida A&M University (12,000) comprise almost 30% of Tallahassee's population.
> Reflecting the large student population: Nearly 75% of the population is between 18-64, compared to just 61% statewide.
> More than 46% of Tallahassee residents have a bachelor's degree or higher vs. 26% statewide.
> Homeownership is much lower than the statewide average: 42.6% vs. 69% statewide. And more than 40% of Tallahassee's housing units are apartments vs. about 30% statewide.
> Income Levels
> Median worker income: $20,932 vs. $26,045 statewide
> Median household income: $38,972 vs. $47,827 statewide
> Black-owned firms: 16.3% vs. 9.0% statewide
> Per capita retail sales: $17,186 vs. $14,353 statewide
> Travel time to work is much shorter than state averages, about 18 minutes vs. 26 minutes statewide.
> The Tallahasseee area is home to the largest collection of antebellum plantations in the country, with 71 plantations and 300,000 acres between the city and Thomasville, Ga.
> Tallahassee is closer to Texas than to Key West.
> Compared to statewide averages, relatively fewer people in Tallahassee are employed in
manufacturing, construction, wholesale trade and transportation.
> Relatively more people work in educational services, health care and public administration.
> Where They Live
Many executives live in the gated northeast Tallahassee community of Golden Eagle, which has an 18-hole golf course and some of the city's most luxurious homes. Compared to south Florida, a Golden Eagle home is a bargain at a median list price of $462,500. But in Tallahassee, that's pricey, considering the median price of a home is $175,600. The relaxed Indianhead neighborhood of mostly 1950s-era homes is a favorite of FSU professors. There is no strict homeowners' association, and front yards might feature elaborate gardens, art sculptures or FSU regalia. At a median list price of $132,900, it's a more affordable option and is a short bike ride to downtown.
> Political Landscape
City commissioners skew toward the old guard political structure, including former Mayor and Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox, who returned to the city commission last year. Current Mayor John Marks, who was cleared of state ethics charges earlier this year, says he hasn't decided if he will run again. At the county level, the makeup of the commission has changed in recent years, with Mary Ann Lindley, a former Tallahassee Democrat newspaper columnist, winning a seat last year. Former FSU football player and NFL running back Nick Maddox was also elected to the Leon County Commission three years ago.
Economic Backbone & Business Infrastructure
More than 67,000 students attend Tallahassee's three largest education institutions - Florida A&M University, Tallahassee Community College and Florida State University, which together employ nearly 20,000. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Barry University, Saint Leo University and Flagler College also offer courses and degree programs in Tallahassee, along with for-profit Keiser University and Lively Technical Center.
> FSU's 17 colleges offer more than 319 degree programs to 41,000 students. The school is establishing a strong business focus: President Eric Barron has encouraged entrepreneurship in both technical and non-technical disciplines, creating "entrepreneurs in residence" in every college. He has named "The Entrepreneurial University" as one of the school's "Big Ideas."
> Among Florida A&M's 12,000 students are citizens of more than 70 other countries. FAMU offers 54 bachelor's degrees and 28 master's degrees and has 12 doctoral programs, including pharmaceutical and environmental sciences and engineering degrees in six specialized areas.
> Tallahassee Community College is fourth in the nation for the number of associate of arts degrees awarded by a community college. Nearly 75% of TCC graduates continue studies in Florida universities.
The decision by law firm Kaye Scholer to move its administrative offices to Tallahassee this year, creating 100 jobs, was the biggest economic development job gain the city has had in seven years. Scholer is transferring most of its jobs from New York, where it will keep its headquarters. The Tallahassee location will hold the firm's accounting, human resources and marketing divisions. About 10% of staffers are expected to relocate from New York and other sites, with the rest of the hires coming from within Tallahassee, says Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Sue Dick. The talent flowing from Tallahassee's state universities helped clinch the deal, Dick says.
FSU's Business Focus
Under President Eric Barron and Caryn Beck-Dudley, dean of the College of Business, FSU is taking an aggressive role in Tallahassee's business life. In addition to creating a student business incubator called the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, Barron has established funds to support new startup companies through campuswide competitions, along with a program that pairs chemistry majors who have potential new products with business majors looking for ventures.
Beck-Dudley serves on the boards of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County and the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and on the advisory board of the Knight Creative Communities Institute.
Meanwhile, the institute, housed within the business college, has established a program called North Florida Outreach. The Outreach effort brings well-known business leaders and entrepreneurs to Tallahassee to speak to the local business community. It also offers local established business owners the opportunity to meet in groups with other businesspeople from non-competing businesses and share insights, confidentially, on issues of concern. The Moran Institute also conducts a small-business executive program that offers nine business enhancement sessions to classes of 25 businesspeople who must apply and be selected for a the program.
> Health Care
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked Leon County eighth in health outcomes among Florida's 67 counties when measuring factors such as healthy habits, life expectancy and access to health care.
The area's health care-related institutions include:
> Capital Regional Medical Center, an HCA hospital with 1,140 employees, including 505 physicians; it also operates eight clinics plus a Gadsden County emergency facility. Last year, the center added two floors to its hospital and was named one of the nation's top performers on key quality measures by the Joint Commission, a accreditor of health care organizations.
> Capital Health Plan, recognized among the top health plans among commercial HMOs by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, serves about 126,000 members in seven regional counties, employs 435 and works with 130 primary-care physicians. It was one of the pioneers in developing electronic patient health records that are available to providers throughout its network.
> Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare is a private, non-profit health care system with a 772-bed acute-care Tallahassee hospital, the eighth-largest hospital in Florida, plus five family medical clinics located in five neighboring counties. TMH has a medical staff of 570 physicians and total employment of 3,500.
Neuroscientist Jacob VanLandingham recently patented a neurosteroid drug and launched a company, Prevacus, at Tallahassee's Innovation Park. VanLandingham, an assistant professor at FSU and an adjunct professor at the University of Florida, developed the drug to help prevent and treat concussions. Prevacus now has 10 employees. Clinical trials, expected to begin next year, will be conducted in Tallahassee, where VanLandingham also is research director for the Memory Disorder Clinic.
Greg Frost, a 20-year law enforcement manager for the Tallahassee Police Department, is trying to revive a once-important agricultural business for which Leon and Jefferson counties were at the epicenter. The product, tung oil, is produced by tung nut trees and used for wood finishes, paints, rust protection, ink, cosmetics - and now biofuel. Frost and many agricultural experts are predicting a U.S. tung oil resurgence. Frost has 50 acres planted and pending agreements for more ["Tallahassee Tung," page 38].
Coton Colors, a family-owned designer and manufacturer of handcrafted pottery and creative gift ware, was founded in 1995 by artist and FSU graduate Laura Johnson and now sells its products in 3,000 stores across the country and online. Last year, Coton Colors added 449 retailers, a new location in Tampa and posted a 105% increase in online sales. The company plans to double the size of its Tallahassee corporate office and design center, add a Las Vegas showroom and unveil 550 new artistic offerings.
Leon County has 461 high-tech establishments, with 4,723 employees, or 3.4% of the total workforce, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. That's close to the overall state figure for high tech of 3.6%.
> A number of technology-oriented businesses have located at Innovation Park, a 208-acre research park managed by the Leon County Research and Development Authority. Companies headquartered at the park include Danfoss Turbocor, Bing Energy and Sunnyland Solar. The park also is home to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, FSU's Aeropropulsion Mechatronics and Energy Center and numerous FSU research programs.
> "Research in technology is very important to the economy, bringing lots of dollars to the universities and employment in research," says County Commissioner Kristin Dozier, who chairs the Leon County Research and Development Authority, the Innovation Park governing board. "I think we're poised to have an even greater impact on the future community than in the past." Dozier points to increased collaboration among universities and community colleges and more resources to encourage entrepreneurs.
> Among other tech companies are defense-related businesses. General Dynamics Land Systems operates a facility that builds and assembles electronic units for tanks and other infantry-fighting vehicles.
Unlike regular laptops and tablets, a "rugged" computer is more resistant to drops, vibrations, spills or extreme temperatures. Tallahassee-based G5 Engineering Solutions has carved out a niche developing rugged devices for clients such as Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. One of its devices can be held under three feet of water for 30 minutes, says co-owner Jason Pernell. The company was founded in 2006 and employs 24. G5 opened a 10,000-sq.-ft. Orlando office. Co-owner Craig Kirkland says the company could be headquartered anywhere but stays in Tallahassee because "it's a great place to live."
> State government provides jobs for more than 44,000 in the Tallahassee metro area. Local government accounts for another 16,100, according to Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The city is home to numerous law practices, lobbyists and business-related associations, along with statewide organizations, including Leadership Florida, Florida TaxWatch, the Florida Chamber and the Florida Bar.
> The city of Tallahassee, governed by a five-member city commission that includes the mayor, owns and operates the regional airport, city utilities, public works and StarMetro transit system. Last year, the American Public Power Association named the city's power utility the No. 1 public utility in the nation.
> Electric Debate
For a city that prides itself on its low cost of living, the cost of electricity is a sticking point. It is such a sensitive issue that Steve Stewart, a Tallahassee businessman, ran for mayor in 2010 on a platform of lowering electric bills by spending reserve funds. He lost to current Tallahassee Mayor John Marks. Since then, the city has established a smart grid system that allows residents and businesses to monitor how much electricity they use - even from their mobile devices.
Tallahassee Regional Airport has a 32% share of air passenger traffic among northwest Florida airports. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Silver Airways and U.S. Airways Express fly in and out of the airport. Connections to many parts of Florida are problematic and expensive, however Almost 685,000 passengers passed through the airport last year, up from almost 634,000 in 2011.
> Last year, Leon County had 2.6 million visitors, accounting for $580 million in direct spending, according to Visit Tallahassee. Tourism-related jobs in increased 11.5% in 2011 to 12,228.
Visitors include those who come to the city for the annual legislative session along with those attracted to the area's ecological features. Sports-related events that attract visitors include both intercollegiate football and basketball games and non-collegiate contests, including regional and national softball and gymnastics events.
Lake Iamonia, Lake Jackson, Lake Talquin and the Wacissa River are popular fishing holes, while the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge - the nation's oldest wildlife refuge - attracts numerous bird watchers. In the city, Mission San Luis is a living history museum that re-creates a mission from Florida's Spanish colonial era.
> Food and Lodging
> Hotel Duval, which opened in 2009 on the edge of downtown, is a favorite stop for business conferences and out-of-town guests. It was renovated by local private equity firm Hunter & Harp Holdings and is also popular with local residents, who like to frequent the hotel's roof-top bar called Level 8 ["Touching All Aspects of Tourism," page 126]. The nearby Aloft hotel, a Starwood-brand that opened in 2009, has also become a popular choice for business guests. Doubletree, a Hilton brand, is just two blocks from the state Capitol. It is a favorite of Tallahassee regulars and is undergoing a renovation.
> Popular power lunch and dinner spots include Andrew's Capital Grill & Bar and 101, both of which sit in the shadow of the state Capitol. Avenue Eat & Drink offers upscale downtown dining. For quick lunch stops, sandwich shops Goodie's and Metro Deli are a mainstay for politicos. Outside downtown, deals are done at established favorites such as Italian restaurant Bella Bella, Asian fusion restaurant Masa and Cypress, which offers upscale American cuisine. But new arrivals are popular, too, such as Shula's 347 Grill, Joe Mama's Wood-Fired Pizza and Southern seafood restaurant Front Porch, which is in the heart of Midtown.
> The city's arts scene includes more than a dozen venues, including the LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts in a historic downtown home; the Tallahassee Automobile Museum and the Museum of Florida History.
> Big Fish, Small Pond
> Tallahassee's size creates opportunities for professionals who want to become civically engaged, and newcomers say they're welcomed by established business leaders. Yet there is a sense that although the elected officials within the city and county are diverse, there isn't the same diversity among the leadership of the traditional business community. Last year, attorney Sean Pittman created the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce to support minority-owned small businesses. "I noticed that minority and women-owned businesses that are small and trying to grow their footprint didn't have a place to go," Pittman says.
> Economic Development
> The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce is the heavyweight for business expansions and relocations and also oversees the Economic Development Council for Tallahassee/Leon County. Nearby counties, such as Wakulla and Gadsden, have their own chambers and economic development agencies, though there has been an effort to work together to pitch the region to prospective employers.
Sue Dick is like a lot of Tallahassee residents. Raised in Miami, she came to Florida State University for college and met her husband there. She returned to Miami for several years but decided she preferred the quality of life and professional opportunities in Tallahassee. "It was a place where you could put down roots," Dick says.
As president and CEO of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce for 14 years and president and CEO of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County, she has watched the private sector evolve from being dominated by small business to include bigger employers recruited to the city and an emphasis on entrepreneurship.
Dick says it can be challenging to pitch Tallahassee to businesses outside the state. "They tend to go immediately to south or central Florida," she says. "They don't fully understand the amazing amenities that are in north Florida," Dick says.
Visitors arriving at Tallahassee's airport will notice several prominent advertisements for Pittman Law Group, a law firm founded by Florida State University law school grad Sean Pittman. "The airport is a place where 80% of the folks who I need to know about Pittman Law Group go in and out of," Pittman says.
Originally from Riviera Beach, Pittman is known for his influence among lawmakers, including the black caucus in the state Legislature and at times has been hired for his ability to sway their votes. His clients include local governments and large corporations such as AT&T and HCA Healthcare. Pittman's influence extends into Tallahassee business circles, as he also lobbies at a local level and is the founder and chairman of the new Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce.
> Young Professionals
> In 2006, the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce launched a young professionals group called Access Tallahassee. For $75 a year, members get access to networking events and job listings geared to young professionals. The Tallahassee Network of Young Professionals - its motto is "Live. Play. Stay." - has focused more on social events. There's also Connect Florida, a group for under-40 professionals that is part of Leadership Florida.
In addition to networking groups, the Knight Foundation awarded the Tallahassee Community College Foundation a $570,000 grant to create an initiative called the Knight Creative Communities Institute. The role of KCCI, headed by Executive Director Laurie Hartsfield, is to launch projects that make Tallahassee a better place for young professionals and the creative sector. The group is responsible for creating the Tallahassee Film Festival and Sustainable Tallahassee, encouraging the city's burgeoning food truck scene by finding a more scenic location for the trucks and improving the design of the Cascades Park amphitheater. "The conversation of 'How do we make our city a great place to live, work and play,' has really changed," Hartsfield says.
> Notable Contacts
> DuBose Ausley: Former chairman of Ausley McMullen law firm; director, Capital City Bank Group and TECO Energy
> Fred Baggett: Managing shareholder, Greenberg Traurig
> Eric Barron: President, Florida State University
> Tom Barron: President, Capital City Bank
> Donny Barstow: President, MCCI
> Caryn Beck-Dudley: Dean, College of Business, Florida State University
> Matt Brown: President/Tallahassee market, Premiere Bank
> J.T. Burnette: Principal, Hunter & Harp Holdings
> William Butler: President, Real Estate InSync
> Richard Campbell: Owner, Applied Fiber
> Scott Carswell: Owner, The Moon entertainment club
> Kevin Cate: CEO, Cate Communications
> Brian Cook: CEO, Capital Regional Medical Center
> Lee Daniel: Executive director, Visit Tallahassee
> Sammie Dixon: President/CEO, Prime Meridian Bank
> Laurie Dozier: President, Mad Dog Construction
> Steve Evans: Retired, IBM North America; mentor/consultant
> David Faulkenberry: President, FBMC Benefits Management
> Mike Fields: State president, Bank of America
> Shawnta Friday-Stroud: Friday-Stroud Dean, School of Business and Industry, Florida A&M University
> Sunil Harman: Director of Aviation, City of Tallahassee
> Laurie Hartsfield: Executive director, Knight Creative Communities Institute
> Chip Hartung: President/real estate broker/owner, Coldwell Banker, Hartung and Noblin
> Lucy Ho: Owner, Azu and Masa restaurants
> John Hogan: CEO, Capital Health Plan
> Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr.: Pastor, Bethel Missionary Baptist Church; publisher, Capital Outlook newspaper
> Yuh-Mei Hutt: President, Golden Lighting
> Chad Kittrell: Principal, Hunter & Harper
> Mark Llewellyn: President, Genesis Group
> John Marks: Mayor, Tallahassee
> Julie Moreno: President/publisher, Tallahassee Democrat
Susie Busch Transou /Tripp Transou
The couple own Tri-Eagle Sales, an Anheuser-Busch distributorship located just outside of Tallahassee. Tripp is the CEO, though he jokes that Susie is the real boss. (The "Busch" in her name comes from being the great-great-granddaughter of Anheuser-Busch founder Adolphus Busch.)
Last year, they bought the Ocala distributorship, expanding the company's footprint to 14 counties in Florida. Tri-Eagle Sales has diversified its portfolio, offering more than 100 beers, including craft beers with names such as "Hop Devil" and supplies waters, teas, energy drinks and milk products.
Both are active in the business community, with Tripp a former head of the economic development council and Susie serving on the board of trustees for Florida State University.
As the founder and president of commercial brokerage NAI TALCOR, Ed Murray is credited with playing a big part in reviving the city's Midtown area.
Murray and his business partner bought an old furniture and office building in Midtown, turning the property into the "Manor at Midtown," a pedestrian-friendly retail space that is now home to a coffee shop, a workout facility, an Irish pub and a 1920s-era speakeasy bar, as well as several other stores. "We took a chance," Murray says. "We had a great lender that helped us and great architects," Murray says.
Murray and his partners own other commercial spaces in Midtown and helped broker and lease the deal to get Whole Foods Market to open a store in that neighborhood. He's also involved in the College Town apartments and other retail projects in the Gaines Street area.
He's chair-elect of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and sits on a special sales tax committee that will pick economic development projects for the city to invest in.
Tallahassee Community College earns high marks from local employers for its ability to respond to workforce demands. Many credit President Jim Murdaugh, who was hired in 2010 to oversee the more than 12,000-student community college. Murdaugh had worked at the college since 1999 and received his bachelor's and master's degrees from FSU.
Under Murdaugh's tenure, TCC has opened a 85,000-sq.-ft. medical training center between Tallahassee's two major hospitals and has broken ground on an environmental institute in Wakulla County.
"Our mission as a comprehensive college is built on the workforce needs of our region," Murdaugh says. "It's a very fundamental difference in vision from universities, which prepare knowledge workers to basically go anywhere in the world."
Murdaugh is the chair-elect of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County and is on numerous local boards, including the new Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce and the Imagine Tallahassee group charged with making the city a better place to live. "My goal is to make sure students have places to go to work," Murdaugh says.
> Karen Moore: CEO, Moore Communications Group
> Kim Moore: Vice president, Workforce development, Tallahassee Community College
> Jason Naumann: Owner, Naumann Group Real Estate
> Mark O'Bryant: President/CEO, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare
> Gary Ostrander: Vice president for research/president, FSU Research Foundation
> Michael Parker: Director, economic and community development, city of Tallahassee
> Daryl Parks: Attorney, Parks & Crump; one of the attorneys who represented the family of Trayvon Martin
> Gloria Pugh: President/CEO, AMWAT Moving Warehousing & Storage
> Andrew Reiss: Owner, Andrew's Capital Grill & Bar
> Kim Rivers: President, Inkbridge; founder, Imagine Tallahassee initiative
> Brian Rowland: Owner, Rowland Publishing
> Ron Sachs: President/CEO, Sachs Media Group
> April Salter: President/COO, Salter Mitchell public relations firm
> John Schrowang: President, Red Elephant Pizza
> Bill Smith: Chairman/president/CEO, Capital City Bank Group
> Steve Vancore: President, VancoreJones Communications
> Mike Vasilinda: CEO, Mike Vasilinda Productions
> Jim Wacksman: Owner, Association Studios
> Jon Williamson: President, Honey Lake Plantation
Eight-acre Orchard Pond Organics in the Red Hills of Leon County grows everything from beets to squash to berries. The venture was started five years ago by Mary Phipps. It fills vegetable and fruit orders weekly or in alternate weeks to more than 100 families signed up for regular pickup; the produce is also sold at New Leaf Market.
For four generations, Bradley family members have been making and sharing their own home-seasoned and cured sausage, sold today from their 1927-built Bradley's Country Store on Centerville Road. The family produces some 100,000 pounds of sausage a year, along with stone ground grits, hogshead cheese and other products, sold locally and shipped to customers as far away as Alaska and Hawaii.
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