While the political rivalry between California and Florida is heating up, the Sunshine State appears to be winning the battle with some companies that have chosen to move to the East Coast.
“We couldn’t hire anyone — the cost of living was too high, you couldn’t bring in new talent,” said Gary Testa, president and CEO of Engineered Fluids, a manufacturing company that moved to St. Petersburg from San Francisco last year.
The company produces immersion cooling fluids for customers in more than 80 industries — from data centers to electric vehicles.
What You Need To Know
- A number of tech and engineering firms have left California for Texas and Florida in the past couple of years
- The CEO of one says that moving to St. Pete from San Francisco has helped his company thrive
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom aired a television ad on the Fourth of July in Florida warning residents that “freedom is under attack in your state"
Testa is an entrepreneur who has started up nine companies during his career. He and his family loved living in the San Francisco Bay Area, but he says that high taxes, the cost of living and the quality of life — which he believes is being hurt by a chronic homelessness problem — dictated that he had to move his business out of the state.
Dallas and Houston have been popular destination spots from many tech companies based in California over the past two years. But Testa said that as someone who loves to surf, boat and fish, he needed to be near a large body of water.
Having his son attend Eckerd College was the bait that brought him to the Tampa Bay Area, so he spent three months in early 2021 learning about St. Pete to determine if it would be a good fit for his company, Engineering Fluids.
“I did not expect to find the infrastructure that I did,” Testa said. “Obviously, Jabil has been headquartered here in the St. Pete-Tampa area for a long time, so there was a large infrastructure of electronic manufacturers, which is critical for our business.”
He also said that his company does a lot of “high-end machining,” which has been aided by the many military suppliers in the area as well.
Engineered Fluids works out of the Tyrone Industrial area of St. Petersburg, but produces its proprietary dielectric cooling fluids at a chemical manufacturing facility in Tyler, Texas.
Testa said the company initially focused on computer servers and lithium-ion batteries – products that generated a lot of electricity and needed a better way of cooling. Now, a great deal of his business is focused on Bitcoin mining companies.
There have been a number of high-profile companies like Tesla and Hewlett Packard that have deserted California since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020. Those businesses moved to Texas, and some other Silicon Valley businesses have moved to Miami, but Testa said that St. Petersburg was the perfect place for his family and company.
On the Fourth of July, California Gov. Gavin Newsom used some of his campaign funds for his reelection bid to air an ad in Florida where he called on Floridians to leave to the Sunshine State and come to California, “where we still believe in freedom — freedom of speech, freedom to choose, freedom from hate and the freedom to love.”
“There is a lot of friction, if you will, between California and Florida, and I think a lot of it is based on politics," Testa said. "And when you set that aside, you really find out that we have a lot of commonality in the way that we like to enjoy life."