By Todd McDermott, Anchor (https://www.wpbf.com/article/palm-beach-county-becomes-wall-street-south/36293852)
A full year of pandemic altered work is now transforming part of Palm Beach County’s economy. More than one very successful business owner from the financial world escaped Covid-19 related restrictions by coming to Palm Beach County. And they’re not going back.
Doug Cifu, CEO of Virtu Financial, says the pandemic has made it very clear his equities market firm can operate from anywhere. He told WPBF 25, “I see no reason why a hedge fund or private equity firm should stay in New York. It just makes no sense to me whatsoever.”
He’s moving operations into the new Divosta Towers in Palm Beach Gardens. Virtu has several national and international offices and one thousand employees, and many of the key players are heading here to South Florida. Recruiting his people to move is easy, says Cifu. “The quality of life in South Florida and the ease of doing business there, on top of giving all of our employees an eleven, twelve, thirteen percent pay increase because they’re not going to be paying New York State and New York City taxes.”
Ten Wall Street and financial sector firms have recently pulled the trigger on a move to Palm Beach County. Business Development Board President and CEO Kelly Smallridge says, “It has been the most economic activity we have seen at the Business Development Board in three decades from one industry.” She also says while the average salary in the county is $55,000, the average salary at the firms coming here is $100,000 to $150,000.
New Day USA, a mortgage company serving military veterans, is expanding from the company’s Maryland headquarters to the brand new ‘360 Rosemary’ building in downtown West Palm Beach , taking the top two floors as home for a projected 600 employees over the next 5 years. Founder and CEO Robert Posner says, “Florida right now has the talent, the university infrastructure, and the trained work force that is really gonna propel the growth of our company.”
Both Posner and Virtu’s Doug Cifu own homes here in Palm Beach County and express enthusiasm about the South Florida way of life and the future of doing business here. The development board’s Kelly Smallridge says up to three more similar financial companies are considering relocating to the Palm Beach area.
“These executives and mid level managers have the ability to spend money in our restaurants. they go the dry cleaner, they hire house cleaning crews, construction crews, accountants, attorneys. They’re here long term.”