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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott tries to woo Wawa by offering to name Florida town after convenience store chain

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 4:36 PM

click to enlarge WAWA.COM

There will be more Wawas in Florida – just don't expect to find one in a Wawa, Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott went to Philadelphia this week with a team of economic-development and education leaders. And so far, all the Sunshine State has got is a reaffirmation that Wawa Inc. will continue to open hoagie-making convenience stores across Florida.

Try as he might, Scott was unable to conclude his first domestic "business development mission" by bringing south the Wawa, Pa.-based company's headquarters.

Philadelphia reporters, during a videotaped press conference Monday, noted that Scott even offered to change the name of a town in Florida to Wawa – after the company, not the Native American word for a Canadian goose that the company is named after.

"I wasn't very successful," Scott quipped.

The semi-serious relocation incentive – tossed on the table with other potential economic incentives – would have emulated the unincorporated community of Wawa in Pennsylvania's Delaware County that houses the headquarters of Wawa Food Markets and about 300 of the company's employees.

While Scott pitched Florida's lack of a personal income tax, Wawa Chief Executive Officer Chris Gheysens said the decision to remain in the company's longtime home is best for company employees.

"It wasn't about … tax breaks and things like that, it's what's best for our associates," Gheysens said.

The company, which has opened 61 stores in Florida since July 2012, plans to spend $75 million for offices and test kitchens at its Chester Heights, Delaware County campus.

Gheysens praised Florida's regulatory environment for allowing growth to occur rapidly.

The company plans to open 50 more stores in the next two years from Daytona Beach across Central Florida to the Southwest coast.

The Sun Sentinel newspaper noted earlier this year that Wawa was scouting for South Florida locations, with plans to open 100 to 150 stores in the region over the next decade.

Scott declined to name what other companies he courted during the brief incursion to the city at the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers

But Scott plans further business-development missions. Trips are expected to Massachusetts, the home to Cumberland Farms; New York, which headquarters the Dairy Barn and Stewart's Shop chains of regional convenience stores; and Illinois, where people can fuel and food up at Road Ranger shops and Fast N Fresh Stores.

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