Global consultancy KPMG is no stranger to Orlando, Florida. The state's fourth largest city is regularly rated highly in business cost-competitiveness studies run by the company’s site-selection arm. Orlando is also one of the cities where KPMG periodically organises training sessions for its advisers.
At the end of 2016, KPMG made a much bigger bet on Orlando however, when it chose the city as the site for its new state-of-the art training and innovation centre. The project, located in Orlando’s Lake Nona community, is scheduled for completion by 2019 and will create 80 jobs, according to KPMG estimates.
“Securing an investment is never an easy job, but securing one from a company that advises others on site selection validates Orlando’s case even more,” says Casey Barnes, vice-president of business development at the Orlando Economic Partnership (OEP), a local entity that worked on the deal for nearly two years.
While cost advantages, highlighted in KPMG’s benchmarking studies, played a role in its decision to invest in Orlando, it was not a deal breaker, according to Mr Barnes. Neither were incentives offered by local economic developers. “The incentive package offered to KPMG included $3.5m in tax exemptions and approximately $3.5m in tax refunds from local governments, but frankly, the decision came down to much more than incentives – it came down to Orlando’s other assets,” he says.
What made a difference, he adds, is the fact that OEP helped KPMG find a plot located close to the airport, making it convenient for KPMG trainees to get in and out of the city. Another factor was engaging KPMG with local entities such as airport authorities and companies such as airline JetBlue, which already run similar projects in the region. “As soon as we knew KPMG’s project requirements, we put them in touch with relevant companies, as well as with high-level airport executives,” says Mr Barnes.
George Tobjy, KPMG’s tax managing director, agrees that such contacts played an important role in choosing Orlando as a location for the company’s training facility. “Local authorities got us engaged with necessary stakeholders right from the start. Plus the airport authority was excellent in terms of offering a number of features expediting procedures for KPMG employees visiting the city,” he says.
Reasons to stay
Meanwhile, KPMG was also seeking a place that its employees would want to travel to. “The training centre will be catering for young new hires, so we wanted to find a place that will excite them,” says Mr Tobjy, highlighting attributes such as theme parks, for which Orlando is renowned, but also sports facilities and the downtown area, which since 2010 has been undergoing extensive redevelopment.
“One of the city’s promotional slogans is ‘Orlando - you don’t know the half of it’. We got to see the full picture and based on that, and we made our decision to commit to launch our project here,” he adds.