Observations on South Florida business
Have you wondered how Gartner built such a big presence in Fort Myers?
You may have read the news in the Business Observer recently that the technology research firm intends to significantly grow its presence in Southwest Florida — again. Gartner already has 1,600 employees in four buildings in the Gateway area of Fort Myers.
If you live in Fort Myers, there’s a good chance you know someone who works for Gartner and raves about this generous employer. It’s the kind of company Lee County has strived to recruit to diversify its economy from housing and tourism.
Still, Southwest Florida isn’t exactly a technology hub, so you’ve got to wonder what brought Gartner to Fort Myers in the first place. The publicly traded company (symbol: IT; recent price: $134) is headquartered in Stamford, Conn., and reported $3.3 billion in revenues in 2017. A member of the S&P 500 listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Gartner is the kind of clean tech company every community would love to attract.
Chalk it up to shrewd “who-you-know” economic development.
Turns out, Manny Fernandez, the former president and CEO, purchased a vacation home on Sanibel, the barrier island near Fort Myers in 1996. He loved the area so much that in 1997 the company relocated its accounting department from Connecticut to Southwest Florida.
That initial move was the start of a 20-year relationship that has turned Gartner into one of the biggest private employers in Southwest Florida. The personal connection with the CEO helped plant the seed for this economic development success story.
Of course, just because Fernandez had a vacation home here didn’t guarantee Gartner jobs. The company considered other factors for expansion such as cost of doing business, quality of life and even friendliness, Fernandez told the Business Observer in 2011.
But you can’t deny that the CEO’s presence in Lee County gave Southwest Florida a shot. And it’s not unreasonable to think that Gartner will one day consider Fort Myers to relocate its corporate headquarters.
Because where would you rather live and work: Southwest Florida or Connecticut?
You know the answer.
Blogging for entrepreneurs in Southwest Florida (SoWeFlo)