Tallahassee – When a company decides where to relocate or expand, it can be a complicated stew of site location, economic development strategy and government relations. Now, two giants in those fields are coming together to bring a turnkey solution to firms across the southeast.

The Southern Group and VisionFirst Advisors announced a new strategic partnership, which continues the expansion of both organizations. The natural synergies between each firm’s client base will provide holistic solutions for businesses and organizations looking to move or expand in markets nationwide.

“This is further evidence of The Southern Group’s expanding influence,” said Paul Bradshaw, Chairman of The Southern Group. “Businesses moving to new cities or expanding inevitably need economic development and siting expertise and a firm that can help them navigate tricky governmental waters. This partnership will cover all the bases.”

VisionFirst Advisors was founded in 2015 by Gray Swoope, its president and CEO. Before VisionFirst Advisors, Swoope spent 30 years leading public and private economic development organizations in multiple states.

“Successful economic development begins with partnerships built on transparency – at the state, regional and local levels,” said Swoope. “Now, we will have close partners with whom we work hand in hand to ensure all our clients’ needs are met, from site location to governmental relations. This expands both our footprint and capacity.”

Working with private and public sector clients, VisionFirst works in nearly every state and provides both site selection services and comprehensive strategic solutions, including marketing and communications as well as workforce intelligence, for businesses considering expansion or relocation. Examples of the firm’s clientele include Weyerhaeuser, the largest owner of timberland acreage worldwide, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee’s largest power provider.

VisionFirst has also worked with states like Illinois, Mississippi, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Florida to develop economic development plans that create jobs and attract investment to the state.

“VisionFirst is a national firm with an impeccable reputation,” said Rachel Cone, Managing Partner and head of The Southern Group’s expansion efforts. “We are incredibly excited to partner with an organization of this caliber, as we grow in new and existing markets. And I am personally looking forward to working with Gray and his team once again.”

VisionFirst’s site location and incentive negotiation expertise in industries such as aerospace and defense, information technology, and alternative energy, combined with The Southern Group’s unparalleled influence in Florida and throughout the southeast, means this partnership will be a winning recipe for clients in a wide array of business segments.

ABOUT THE SOUTHERN GROUP: Celebrating 25 years of influence, The Southern Group is the largest lobbying firm in Florida with offices throughout the southeast. Through its team of experts, the Southern Group helps clients build winning strategies by navigating the political landscape and connecting with decision-makers. To learn more visit TheSouthernGroup.com.

ABOUT VISIONFIRST ADVISORS: After 30 years of leading public and private economic development organizations in multiple states, Gray Swoope launched VisionFirst Advisors, an economic development consulting company that provides services for both the public and private sector. From site selection to workforce analysis, our team brings decades of experience to our clients’ economic development challenges.


Rachel Cone (904) 386-3033



Nancy Blum-Heintz (850) 321-9740



Skip Foster (704) 473-0531