Florida’s City of Miami Could Fall Short in Bid for Amazon HQ2

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) – Florida’s lack of a statewide nondiscrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity now places the Sunshine State at a competitive disadvantage as Amazon considers a location for its second headquarters. Florida Competes warned last October that the Sunshine State has fallen behind other states by failing to update its 1992 Civil Rights Act. This now places the state at a needless economic disadvantage in a competition that could bring 50,000 high-paying jobs and a $5 billion investment into the State’s economy.

In a recent Newsweek article, Amazon’s 2nd HQ: Does a Lack of LGBT Anti-Discrimination Laws Put These States at a Disadvantage? reporter Christianna Silva shares that Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s top executive joined a coalition of businesses backing a federal anti-discrimination bill to protect LGBT people. In a Feb. 1, 2018 USA Today article, “Amazon’s second headquarters: Gay rights groups say Amazon should avoid these 9 cities,” reporter Elizabeth Weise states that of the 20 cities on Amazon’s list of finalists, nine are in states with no anti-gay-discrimination laws, with Miami listed as one of the nine.

While Miami-Dade County has a strong and inclusive local non-discrimination ordinance, the lack of statewide protections may hurt the city’s chances in what is considered a highly competitive bid across the country. Florida Competes thanks South Florida legislators who have signed onto the Florida Competitive Workforce Act and who understand this is not only the right thing to do, but a matter of economic viability. Members include: Senators Lauren Book (D-Plantation), Oscar Braynon II (D-Miami Gardens), Anitere Flores (R-Miami), Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah), Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami), Annette Taddeo (D-Miami) and Representatives Robert Asencio (D-Miami), Nicholas Duran (D-Miami), Roy Hardemon (D-Miami), Jared Moskowitz (D-Coral Springs), Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) and David Richardson (D-Miami Beach).

“Ranked 12th on the Fortune 500 list, Amazon recognizes that recruiting and retaining the most talented workforce requires a great quality of life both in and out of the office,” said Christina Johnson, spokesperson for Florida Competes. “The 10 Florida-based Fortune 500 companies that are a part of Florida Competes have been embracing these nondiscrimination policies for years, are calling on Florida legislators to modernize state law to ensure our business leaders can continue to build the economy by attracting national and international industries.”

Amazon made diversity and quality of life important components of the bidding process requesting evidence of a compatible cultural and community environment that “includes the presence and support of a diverse population.” The company has actively promoted state and federal legislation on equal rights for the LGBT community and the corporation’s Statement on Diversity emphasizes diverse perspectives: “We believe that diversity and inclusion are good for our business, but our commitment is based on something more fundamental than that. It’s simply right. Amazon has always been, and always will be, committed to tolerance and diversity.”

On October 17, the Florida Competes coalition sent a letter to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron asking the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA) be heard during the 2018 Legislative Session. There is still time this Session to hear SB 66/HB 347 for Florida to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

During the 2017 session, the FCWA received unprecedented bipartisan support, with 44% of all legislators, or 70 members, signing on to the bill—yet the measure did not secure a hearing in either chamber. This year, SB 66 by Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) and HB 347 by Reps. Ben Diamond (D-St. Petersburg) and Rene Plasencia (R-Titusville) have been filed, with more than 40% for legislators signing on.

While the state has failed to update Florida’s nondiscrimination laws, updated Human Rights Ordinances (HROs) have been passed in 12 counties and 30 municipalities throughout the state, covering 60 percent of Florida’s population. But these protections create a patchwork where employees and their families are still subject to discrimination if they live in a neighboring city or county from their workplace without a local HRO.

Major employers, including 11 Fortune 500 companies AT&T, CSX, Darden Restaurants, Marriott, NextEra Energy, Office Depot, Raymond James, Tech Data, Uber, Walt Disney World Resort and Wells Fargo have joined the coalition, along with more than 450 local businesses.