County business recruiter keeps spreading the news to New Yorkers

New York and Palm Beach County. They’re so made for each other!

For the past several months, that’s been the message to New York money firms by the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, the county’s chief recruitment arm.

The courtship quietly began last October in a BDB effort dubbed Behind the Gates, an effort to entice executives who have a home in Palm Beach County to move their businesses down here and escape states with high city and state taxes. New York comes to mind.

The effort received a boost in January, when the BDB’s bid to lure New York financial firms, especially private equity and hedge funds, was the subject of a New York Post article.

Soon enough, BDB President Kelly Smallridge was the darling of the national media. In one clip from Fox Business News, Smallridge strolled along the Intracoastal Waterway as she praised the county’s business virtues for out-of-towners. (The county’s big selling points: No state income tax and plenty of office space with water views.)

She also did an interview with CNBC.

The TV spots “changed my life,” Smallridge said. “The level of inquiries was nonstop.”

But the BDB’s marketing effort didn’t fade when the TV reporters left town. Far from it.

The BDB continued its push with private parties for prospects, held at business executives’ homes throughout the county. January through March were especially busy with get-togethers taking place in exclusive neighborhoods, such as Woodfield Country Club in Boca Raton.

In addition, Smallridge said the BDB forged a partnership with public and private schools to showcase the educational institutions throughout the county. Principals and headmasters cooperated in showing their schools to business executives and their wives, she said.

Wealthy New Yorkers, who are all about having their children in the best schools, were keen to learn how many public and private schools are able to get their students not only into colleges — but into the Ivy Leagues.

Smallridge acknowledged that private equity firms and hedge funds don’t bring a lot of employees to town, with each firm usually employing maybe a couple dozen people. But they do bring people to Palm Beach County who contribute to their communities. Not only will they lease office space and spend money on area retailers, they also are likely to support the area’s schools, cultural institutions, recreational centers and charities, she said.

Last month, before the New Yorkers returned to the still-frigid Northeast, there was one final get-together.

The BDB and top business executives, such as FTI Consulting’s Dennis Schaughnessy, Pepe Fanjul of Florida Crystals and Ray Celedinas of the Celedinas Insurance Group, mingled with prospects at a party worthy of any hedge fund.

The shindig’s location? The superyacht Diamonds Are Forever, owned by Palm Beach Gardens businessman John Staluppi.

Staluppi is known for his auto dealerships and his mega-yachts named after James Bond films.

Diamonds Are Forever was docked in downtown West Palm Beach for the March get-together. Mayor Jeri Muoio made an appearance to greet visitors, Smallridge said. The party included financial executive prospects and their spouses, who chatted with executives who already have made the move south.

Smallridge said the yacht, which is for sale, was arranged by Celedinas, who also sponsored the party.

She added the results of that six-month effort are about to bear fruit. Five likely prospects, consisting of 100 jobs, will move to Palm Beach County in 2013, Smallridge said. An additional 10 prospects could move in 2014, Smallridge said. Efforts are underway to plan follow-up visits to prospects during the summer and fine-tune the details that business executives want to know about the area’s schools, she added.


Thanks to the many readers who responded to my column last week about the theft of my Social Security number. Several readers offered their own stories and suggestions, and they also recommended I list the phone numbers I called to report the theft.

So here they are: IRS: 1-800-908-4490; Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; Federal Trade Commission: 1-877-438-4338; and your local police department. These numbers and more information can be obtained from the IRS website,

IRS Identity Theft Affidavit Form 14039 also is available on the website.

In addition, identity theft victims should contact their local U.S. representative or U.S. senator. They have taxpayer advocates who can help speed the process of recovering tax refunds.

Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law. Contact her at

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