Palm Beach County Takes ‘Wall Street South’ Pitch to Times Square

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In the latest effort by Florida economic developers to pry financial firms away from Wall Street, the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County this week made its pitch on three digital billboards in the heart of Manhattan.

The three 15-second ads featured the phrase “Wall Street South” alongside aerial photos of a sunny coastline. The digital billboard spots appeared Wednesday in Times Square, at 43rd Rotunda, Times Square Tower and the I Love NY Board at 1530 Broadway, the Business Development Board said

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“Your future is bright in Palm Beach, FL,” one read. “Head to Palm Beach, Florida,” read another.

The ads ran for only one day but will return on New Year’s Eve, Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the development board, told Commercial Observer.

The daylong campaign was part of the development board’s longer-term aim to poach prized employers from higher-tax locales.

“This goes in line with this 10-year strategy we’ve embarked on to bring more financial services firms to Palm Beach County,” Smallridge said. “It’s all about presenting this constant image of Palm Beach County as an attractive place to do business.”

The Business Development Board, a nonprofit funded by Palm Beach County taxpayers and businesses, has trademarked the slogan “Wall Street South.” Wednesday’s ad buy cost $20,000. 

“If all we get is one inquiry that lands in Palm Beach County, they’ll spend a lot more than that,” Smallridge said.

Even before the pandemic, business boosters in Palm Beach County and elsewhere in Florida pitched the state as a warmer, more affordable alternative to New York. During the pandemic, the Wall Street companies moving south increased from a trickle to a torrent.

New York and California lost financial firms with assets approaching $1 trillion to Sun Belt states over the past three years, Bloomberg News reported this week. While Texas, Tennessee and North Carolina have landed new recruits, Florida was the top destination for financial companies that left New York.

In one example, Elliott Management moved from New York to West Palm Beach. Another oft-cited defection is Ken Griffin’s Citadel, which left not New York but Chicago and opened a headquarters in Miami and an office on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.

By Bloomberg’s count, Miami has bagged 63 financial companies from New York since the pandemic, while Palm Beach has recruited 37 firms. New-to-market financial companies that have taken office space in South Florida include Apollo Global Management, Millennium Management and Point72 Asset Management.

Aggressive recruiting pitches have long been part of Florida’s economic playbook. In the early 2000s, then-Gov. Jeb Bush kicked off a $1 billion bet on biotech that included subsidies to California labs Scripps Research Institute and Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies.

In 2013, Smallridge appeared on NBC News and other networks to discuss her attempts to woo hedge funds and private equity firms. In 2015, another Republican Florida governor, Rick Scott, went to California to make a pitch to business owners there. Print ads supporting the recruiting effort exclaimed, “Florida Is Ready!”

More recently, Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez urged California tech companies to move to his city, which the mayor has said is transforming into “a capital of capital.” In 2021, Suarez paid for a billboard that read, “Thinking of moving to Miami? DM me.”

Dev Motwani, president and CEO of Merrimac Ventures in Fort Lauderdale, said the migration of capital to South Florida has accelerated.

“We always had the weather. We always had the taxes,” he told Commercial Observer recently. “But during the pandemic, people began to see this was a great place to live and raise a family.”

Smallridge said it helped that Florida reopened for business before New York, and that a new Class A building in West Palm Beach, 360 Rosemary, had office space for lease.

“After COVID, the stars were in alignment,” Smallridge said.

Jeff Ostrowski can be reached at jostrowski@commercialobserver.com.