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Thursday
Oct192017

Naples News: Anderson Strategy to Recruit Arthrex Sound 

Naples News Editorial

Arthrex didn’t grow from a Naples company into an international leader in medical device manufacturing by making bad business decisions.

So Arthrex’s announcement Monday that it’s building a manufacturing plant and creating 1,000 well-paying jobs in South Carolina certainly must be a sound business decision from Arthrex’s point of view.

However, there’s an important takeaway that we contend must now be owned by state officials as well as Florida educational leaders. At a time we’re trying to compete and grow not only this region’s workforce and economy but also Florida’s, political and educational leadership came up short.

Notably, this isn’t a company from the Midwest or Northeast choosing to expand in South Carolina over a site in Collier County, Lee County or elsewhere in Florida. This is a well-entrenched Southwest Florida company choosing to expand in South Carolina over anywhere closer to home, such as another community in the Sunshine State. It’s a company with global offices that in 2015 and 2016 made Fortune magazine’s “Best 100 Companies to Work For” list.

State and local leaders will be reflecting soon on what could have been handled more effectively in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Irma. That’s a necessary self-review.

Yet we contend there also will be a time soon for reflection on what might have been done differently to perhaps find an expansion home closer to Arthrex’s North Naples base. What might have persuaded the manufacturer that this state was a better fit than a South Carolina community with a Florida-sounding name, Sandy Springs?

Workforce clue

There are clues in the announcement about construction of the $30 million, 200,000-square-foot surgical device and implant manufacturing plant in Anderson County, South Carolina.

Take, for example, references to the ability to have a trained workforce ready in Anderson County.

“Arthrex plans to work with Tri-County Technical College in Anderson to develop a strong pipeline of qualified manufacturing personnel, utilizing their in-depth programs and long-standing relationships with institutions like Clemson University that are dedicated to supporting the manufacturing industry,” an Arthrex press release states.

Arthrex or any other successful, expanding company will go elsewhere if they can’t get the qualified workforce needed.

Providing a well-trained workforce to business and industry is a shortcoming we’ve heard about in Collier and Lee counties. However, we’re now left to wonder if this is a Florida-wide deficiency and what fault lies with our state’s educational institutions.

The Legislature and even Gov. Rick Scott in recent years have cut degree programs tied to our job market, as well as laboratory building construction dollars, sought by Florida Gulf Coast University.

In suggesting consideration of a local-option sales tax, the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce cited better workforce training centers as a potential target for revenue.

Maybe Arthrex would have gone to South Carolina anyway. That’s not our point.

The question has now been highlighted to other businesses eyeing expansion whether Florida is doing enough to provide the necessary trained workforce.

Corporate welfare?

Then there’s the financial package South Carolina provided, including up to a 90 percent property tax reduction for a decade and other performance-based job incentives, all valued at nearly $13 million.

That sounds like what Florida House leadership wrongly called corporate welfare for the past year, insisting companies still would choose this state over others. House leadership should have followed Scott’s lead in growing Florida’s economy and jobs rather than fighting him to the end when the state approved a plea-bargain budget that included $85 million for a job growth fund.

Since the recession, Scott’s office has rolled out company relocation and expansion announcements regularly. So far this fiscal year, we’ve seen welcomed but infrequent announcements -- 350 jobs for a turbine company in Tampa, 200 for an engineering-IT firm in Palm Beach County, 20 at a Tampa IT firm and 15 at a Lakeland project management company.

Collectively it’s about half of South Carolina’s 1,000-job gain.

With another session coming, lawmakers should follow the lead of a governor who has substantially grown Florida’s job market since his 2010 election.

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