Pandemic Does Little to Slow Recruitment

Todays News

Image courtesy EDC of Sarasota County.

What’s it like recruiting businesses to Florida during a pandemic? Officials at the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County report there’s been a surprising number of inquiries from companies almost since the beginning. Erin Silk, who was just promoted to be the EDC’s vice president of Business Development Services, says the tax environment has remained a lure, and the reluctance to maintain strict lockdowns compared to other states also played a role.

“We are busier than we have ever been with talking with companies,” she said.

Of course, when the region saw the first COVID-19 case in the Eastern U.S. in March last year, there was an immediate slowdown as the pandemic chilled commerce nationwide. That’s when the EDC shifted much of its attention toward helping local businesses stay afloat with small business loans and other programs.

But around fall, the EDC started seeing increasing interest, particularly from manufacturers and life sciences companies. “They were expanding and needing assistance,” Silk recalls. “It was unexpected for us.”

Lisa Krouse, newly-installed EDC president, has been receiving regular reports during the pandemic of interest in Sarasota. “It isn’t something I expected when I started to be more involved in the day-to-day of the EDC, only because of the external environment around COVID-19,” she said. “But to my surprise, what Erin and the team were doing was quite extensive.  It seems to me there’s great interest in companies looking at Sarasota and thinking about calling it home.”

There was also a trend with geography. Companies from states with strict lockdowns in place like California and Nevada started calling, aware Florida had largely shifted into opening status. “Even international companies were hearing a lot about Florida,” Silk said.

Of course, the COVID-19 headlines around Florida in recent weeks have been considerable less upbeat. As the delta variant sparks a new surge in infections, Florida and Texas, another low business-restriction state, have produced the bulk of infections nationwide. Silk acknowledges that has impacted recruiting.

 “We have spoken to companies interested in us, but who said at this very moment they are a little uncomfortable and not ready to make a move,” Silk said. “But at the same time, many companies are not swayed by it. Some still physically come down to Sarasota County, do tours and move forward on their plans.”

Image courtesy EDC of Sarasota County.

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