Miami targets Chicago’s financial firms
The weather is one thing, taxes are another in this Florida city’s bid to lure Chicago businesses south.
For Chicago businesses leaders tired of the city’s dreary weather and/or worried about new Illinois taxes, Miami is calling.
Representatives of the Miami Downtown Development Authority arrived in Chicago this week on a four-day mission to lure Chicago firms to their sunny city. They’re particularly focused on small and mid-sized financial firms that can more easily pick up their lucrative businesses and head south, but they’ll take any firm, or those interested in simply opening a new Miami outpost.
“We’re coming after Illinois,” said Miami DDA Deputy Director Christina Crespi, noting that their efforts were spurred partly by the proposed Illinois graduated income tax that would increase levies on the state’s richest residents. Florida has no personal income tax. She says the city has a “minimal pot of funds” to help newly arriving firms build out offices.
While the Miami delegation wouldn’t say exactly which Chicago firms they’re targeting, they seemed particularly interested in hedge fund and private equity managers and attended a futures industry hedge fund event. In addition, they met with firms that service that sector, including Chicago banking behemoth Northern Trust and Cortland Capital Market Services, among others, said Ilona Vega, who leads the authority’s business development. “The better acquainted they are with Miami’s growing finance sector, the better prepared and educated they are when their clients ask them about new or alternative locations,” Vega said by email.
The delegation Miami has built out its infrastructure in recent years to handle more businesses, with newly constructed condominiums and a new regional rail system, plus additional office space in the works. Still, the Miami officials couldn’t point to any major wins in attracting Chicago firms recently, noting only that a small Naperville-based firm, Left Brain Wealth Management, opened an office in Miami in 2017.
At least one Chicago financial firm leader, who services other businesses in the finance sector, says the Florida folks are going to have a hard sell. Christopher Gillock, managing director at Chicago-based investment banking boutique Colonnade Advisors, notes Chicago has a much larger ecosystem of commerce and its central geographic location makes it easy to access the rest of the country.
“When you have a significant change in taxation, it certainly has an impact on peoples’ attitudes on where they want to put down roots with their businesses, and their lives,” Gillock said in an interview. “Chicago, however, has a vast position that the cites in Florida just don’t have. It’s not easy to operate nationally from Miami.”