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Jessica Del Vecchio
This city advocate is building a better Boca, brick by economic brick.
Take a trip anywhere in the United States during the winter months and you’ll quickly be reminded why calling Florida home is often met with looks of envy, jealously and possibly the question, “have an extra bedroom?” Life in the Sunshine State has a number of benefits, and for Jessica Del Vecchio, selling Boca Raton on these benefits is now her job.
In April 2015, Del Vecchio left her position as director of operations after more than seven years at Harr Capital Management to try an entirely new role both for her and the city. In order to keep Boca Raton competitive in attracting new companies to the area, the city created the Development Fund with Del Vecchio as its first economic development manager. Up until now, Boca has relied on county representatives to entice big businesses to the area. But with 38 municipalities within the county, Boca Raton is one of many cities moving toward an economic development fund in order to stay competitive.
A Boca resident since 1991, Del Vecchio is the perfect tour guide for the city. She completed her undergraduate and master’s degrees at Lynn University and has spent her professional career working in finance in Boca Raton. She describes herself as “a lifer,” and her love for the city is evident.
Del Vecchio wears many hats in her new position, including finding and working with companies that are expanding or relocating and showing them why Boca Raton is the best place to do both. “Attracting and relocating new companies is a competitive business; this fund will allow us to compete with other states and counties and cities that the company is considering,” she says.
The fund follows the state’s Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund outline and allocates funding to companies who expand within or relocate their businesses to Boca as long as they hire and retain the number of jobs stated in their contract with the city. Boca Raton’s main industry is corporate headquarters, with companies like Office Depot, ADT, Garda, Tyco and Cancer Treatment Centers of America all housing their head offices in the city. IBM set up shop here in the 1970s and started the trend for high-tech and medical companies relocating to the area, with Boca now boasting 27 life science companies who call the area home.
While “Seinfeld” provided iconic pop-culture references from “the big salad” to “Festivus,” it also stereotyped Boca Raton as an enclave of elderly retirees who rush to local diners for the blue plate special at 4 in the afternoon. One of Del Vecchio’s biggest hurdles in her new role is discrediting this picture of Boca Raton and instead displaying its young, vibrant makeup. With a population of 90,000 and an average age of 46, the city is a far cry from a geriatric ground zero.
Extolling Boca’s virtues of more than 11 million square feet of Class A office space is one thing, but another is convincing the people who make up companies why they should move their families to the city. This is another area where Del Vecchio’s enthusiasm for Boca shines. “They factor in that we’re a safe city with high-rated schools and colleges, with a top-notch medical center, great dining and nightlife, world-class shopping and beautiful parks and beaches,” she says.
Once the companies have made the move to Boca, Del Vecchio’s role continues as she works tirelessly to make the transition as smooth as possible. “There’s a lot to moving corporate headquarters. It’s not just, ‘oh, it’s sunny, let’s do it,’” says Del Vecchio. The department has launched a Facebook page and a newsletter in an effort to help spread its message. “We’re here to help, we’re approachable, and we have a lot of resources [companies] may be unaware of.
“Anytime that they’re not in business, they’re losing money,” she adds. “We want to get rid of all those distractions and let them get back to building their business.” And that means building a better Boca Raton.