John Rhodes brings his national relocation company to Manatee.
Interviewed by Chris Angermann
John Rhodes is president of Moran, Stahl & Boyer, a nationally recognized site relocation and economic development firm that provides analyses on site selection, labor markets and relocation feasibility to clients such as Corning, New York Life Insurance Company and Johnson & Johnson.
What prompted you to move the company from Atlanta to Lakewood Ranch last year?
We are here basically because of lifestyle. When our youngest child went off to college, my wife Connie said, "I have done six corporate moves. I want this to be my move." We were watching the sunset in Sarasota on Memorial Day a year ago when she said, "I think I found my home."
You consider up to 40 criteria in your analyses for corporate clients. Are some more important than others?
Every type of company representing an industry and every type of operation within a given company has different sets of parameters. Depending on the operation, we may use only 10 parameters. For example, corporate headquarters care less about labor cost than accessibility, quality of life and the ability to attract top talent. Quality of life doesn't play a role in distribution or manufacturing.
You play matchmaker to both corporate clients and to communities throughout the U.S.?
We work with states, regions, counties and metro areas to create profiles that articulate their resources and target industries. We just finished a major biotech analysis for New Orleans. I recently was invited to join the board of directors of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Advisory Council to help them with economic development. We have brought a number of back office operations from the financial service industries into Tampa over the years. Tampa, along with Jacksonville, is a very strong area for good labor at a reasonable price.
What do you see as some of the strengths and weaknesses of Sarasota and Manatee counties in attracting companies here?
Between the Fort Myers and Tampa airports, you can go anywhere in the country for less than $300. If you look at comparable cities-Savannah, Charleston, Wilmington-the equivalent fares are anywhere from $600 to $1,000. With no one strong hub airport and direct competition between a number of airlines, it makes business travel very cost effective. A big challenge is the issue of affordable housing for people who service our service industry. People won't travel large distances to work a service job. In the I-75 area where I live, we've done a good job of upgrading, converting and expanding service, but we can't get the people to work here. Almost every store has a "For Hire" sign on the door.
What are some current trends in relocation?
Right now there is a huge boom in business services in our country. Many older folks who used to work for big corporations are becoming consultants. They work on a contract basis, but want to live where they want to, rather than where the company is located. So we are going to see an increased migration to areas along the ocean and in the mountains-Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, Florida-because they are just great places to live.
ATTAINABLE HOUSING A new term, adopted by the 2005 Florida Legislature and now used by city of Sarasota officials to replace the phrase "affordable housing." So what's the difference between the two? City Commissioner Fredd Atkins says it's not a meaningful shift in thinking: "The major shift will be when corporate America decides to pay a living wage."
COMA FACTOR The degree of dullness of a meeting, presentation or reading material. "So let's try to describe this issue in language with a low coma factor." (Source: Buzzwhack.com)
CORRIDOR CRUISERS The growing number of workers who spend most of their time in--or en route to--meetings. They're a main target of the fledgling pocket PC industry. (Source: Buzzwhack.com)
LEADAGER A person in charge who confuses leadership with micromanagement. (Source: Buzzwhack.com)
PICNIC Problem In Chair, Not In Computer. Techie-speak for user error. (Source: Buzzwhack.com)
Hispanics and Latinos in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Total number of Hispanics or Latinos in Sarasota County: 14,373. In Manatee County: 24,540
Percentage of population that is Hispanic (the largest minority in both counties) in Sarasota County: 4.4. In Manatee County, 9.3
Percentage of all Sarasota County Hispanics born in a foreign country: 57; percentage of those foreign-born who are U.S. citizens: 28
Ratio of Sarasota County Hispanics who speak a language other than English at home: 4 out of 5
Percentage of Manatee County Hispanics or Latinos of two or more races: 0.5
Percentage of Sarasota County Hispanic adults over 25 who lack a high school diploma or equivalent: 35. Percentage of all Sarasota County residents who lack a high school diploma or equivalent: 13
Percentage of Sarasota County Hispanics who carpool to work: 20
Per capita income of Hispanics in Sarasota County: $15,097; average per capita income for Sarasota County overall: $28,326
Percentage of Sarasota County Hispanics below the poverty line: 19; percentage of overall Sarasota County population below the poverty line: 8
Percentage of Sarasota County Hispanics who are homeowners: 53
Percentage of Manatee County homeowners who are Hispanic: 5
SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau and SCOPE. Compiled by David Higgins.