Q&A with Boca Raton's economic development manager Jessica Del Vecchio

Boca Raton focuses on new employers while awaiting Tuesday's court decision on Office Depot acquisition

Jessica Del Vecchio is economic development manager for the City of Boca Raton. Del Vecchio, who previously worked for the Haar Capital Management hedge fund in Boca Raton, joined the city in economic development a year ago.

She calls herself the "concierge" for Boca Raton's new and expanding businesses, connecting them with the city resources they need. She has lived in Boca Raton since 1991.

Q: Boca Raton's largest private employer, Office Depot, is expected to find out on Tuesday whether it can proceed with its planned merger with rival Staples.

With 2,000 headquarters jobs in Boca Raton in the balance, how has the city been planning for the potential loss of jobs?

A: If that acquisition goes through, they would keep a presence here. If [Staples] offers relocation packages, it would be a loss to the housing market.

It weighs on all of us, but it's out of our control. We have to play our 'A' game to attract companies and diversify.

If that [office] space becomes available, it is an amazing space -- 624,000 square feet in three buildings. I've had two corporate headquarters inquires from site consultants. We would certainly market that space to at least one big headquarters, possibly more.

Q: How have you been working to attract new business and what do you see as Boca Raton's brand?

We have been establishing relationships outside of the state with site-selection companies. We hear about companies that are unhappy and offer for them to come down and take a look at what we have here. A lot don't realize what we have here.

We're very different from a lot of other municipalities in that we have clusters of biotech, health care, information technology, and the Research Park [at Florida Atlantic University], which is helping to launching businesses.

What sets us apart is we have a corporate culture that started decades ago with IBM. We have all that on top of the lifestyle.

Q: How do you help new and expanding businesses in the city?

We expedite permitting. We want businesses to be up and running. We don't want them taking time away from their business to get a permit. Give that to me to tackle in-house.

When I presented this to the city council, I called myself the 'concierge of the business community.'

An example is a company that was concerned about the workforce [in Boca Raton]. We put them in touch with [data company] IDI and KRS Global Biotechnology to speak to someone who is actually hiring.

Another example is a health-care company that was expanding and didn't have time to reach an inspector. I can navigate the process for them.

Q: After the state legislature in this past session denied Gov. Rick Scott the extra economic incentives he wanted to create jobs, cities were left with fewer incentive tools. Where does this mean for Boca Raton in being able to offer incentives for relocating or expanding businesses?

A: We have a reserve for economic development -- $1 million is put into this fund on an annual basis.

The state pays the lion's share [in incentives] so the loss is troublesome to some degree. The more tools we can have in our tool box, the better.

But when they take it away from all of us [cities], it's a level playing field. We're all on the same page.

Q: What companies have moved to Boca Raton in recent months that you expect to create a lot of jobs for the community?

[Online yacht charter company] Yachtico is going to create 50 jobs. It relocated from Germany and moved into the Research Park. They rent yachts. The business shows how technology is really changing the way people travel.

Avid Technologies has an office in Massachusetts but added an office here, on the Innovation Center [former T-Rex] campus, and plan just over 100 hires.

KRS Global Biotechnology is a biotech company that was here but is expanding. They're looking at creating 160 jobs.

mpounds@tribpub.com or 561-243-6650

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