An Open Letter from the Governor About Economic Development.
You have probably heard that Florida is the Sunshine State, and you would probably agree that each state has its own defining characteristic. New York has its city, California has its movie stars and Illinois has its high taxes.
Many people may look at Florida and think of sunshine, Disney World, orange juice and beaches. These are great reasons for people to think of Florida, but as governor, my goal is to make people immediately associate our state with jobs and opportunities.
During my campaign last year, Florida was continuing to lose jobs by the thousands, and I pledged to get the state back to work by implementing seven steps to help businesses create 700,000 jobs over seven years. Implementation of the initial phases of my seven-step plan and creation of an emphasis on economic development have Florida already heading in the right direction. Eleven months into my term, Florida has already surpassed 100,000 net jobs, including 118,000 new jobs in the private sector.
The best way to ensure all Floridians the opportunity to have a job is to make Florida the best state in the country for businesses to start, relocate or expand. This doesn’t just mean large corporations; it means small and locally owned businesses, too. It is the smaller businesses that add one or two jobs here and there that will play the biggest part in getting our state back to work, and I am grateful for those who have the foresight to take a risk and invest in Florida.
Every state and country competes for jobs, and it is my goal to make sure Florida is the obvious choice for businesses by providing new opportunities and job seekers.
When we as individuals shop, we’re not willing to pay more for a product or service because the business is located in a state or country with higher taxes or fees, with the additional cost of unnecessary or redundant permitting or regulation, or with increased litigation risk. If businesses are to thrive and hire more employees here in Florida, we need to ensure that they aren’t at a competitive disadvantage because of higher taxes and fees, and a burdensome regulatory and litigation environment.
The process of making Florida the “Jobs State” and improving its business climate began last legislative session, when we successfully closed a $3.4 billion budget gap and reduced state spending by $2 billion while simultaneously cutting taxes for Floridians. We eliminated the business income tax for nearly half of the businesses that were required to pay it and delivered $210 million in property tax cuts, meaning more money for businesses and families. In addition, I vetoed $615 million in wasteful spending from the state budget, streamlined government by consolidating its multiple economic development agencies into one Department of Economic Opportunity and began eliminating more than 1,000 unnecessary government rules and regulations—a process that is continuing today. We also brought Florida into line with the rest of the country by having state workers contribute to their own retirement just as private sector employees do.
My first legislative session in office was marked by an unprecedented number of reforms focused on getting our state back to work. As a result, Florida is rapidly growing jobs, and we have experienced a declining unemployment rate, from 12 percent last December to 10.3 percent in October.
Clearly Florida means business.
Job Creation and Economic Growth
The key priorities of my 2012 jobs agenda will build on the progress made in 2011. We are on the right path, but with close to 900,000 Floridians still out of work, being on the right path is not enough. With that in mind, here are my seven job creation and economic growth priorities for the upcoming legislative session:
Streamline business permitting and eliminate burdensome rules and regulations.
Provide tax relief and reform for Florida’s working families and businesses.
Reform Florida’s unemployment system to create a reemployment system.
Restore accountability and credibility to Florida’s Workforce Boards.
Prioritize vital transportation projects to facilitate economic development opportunities.
Offer stability to Florida businesses by balancing the budget without raising taxes.
Prioritize science, technology, engineering and mathematics in education.
I am pushing for Florida to take one step closer to completely phasing out the business income tax, and I’m seeking to exempt around half—roughly 150,000—of businesses from paying the tangible personal property tax, which can be as burdensome for small businesses just to file as to pay. Working with the Legislature and the Department of Transportation, we will prioritize transportation projects that will have the greatest economic development impact; maximize incentives for manufacturers to open and expand; increase training opportunities for unemployed Floridians; and ensure our students are prepared to compete in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And I will demand more accountability from Florida’s 24 locally controlled Workforce Boards and tightened scrutiny of special taxing districts, which have $15.4 billion in budget authority annually.
Shortly after rolling out my 2012 Job Creation and Economic Growth Agenda, I had an opportunity to travel to Brazil with a delegation of Florida business leaders. The Florida businesses that participated in the trade mission came away with $94 million in expected new sales with partners in Brazil. We met with key Brazilian business leaders interested in investing in Florida and shared with them Florida’s plans to be the best place to do business. It was a successful trip that capped off a year that also included successful trade missions to Panama and Canada.
During these trade missions, Florida businesses highlighted the significant benefit our state will experience from the recent passage of the free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. In 2011, I urged President Obama to send the three previously negotiated free trade agreements to Congress for immediate ratification, with no strings attached. The agreements were approved in October and are projected to create nearly 12,000 jobs in Florida and save American companies $3 billion-plus in tariffs.
These agreements will be a catalyst for expansion of the maritime cargo activities at Florida ports that are responsible for generating more than 550,000 direct and indirect jobs and $66 billion in total economic value. With these factors working in our favor, Florida is well positioned to become a national leader in international trade as well as job creation.
Companies are beginning to notice that we are making Florida the best place to realize a return on their investments of capital, time and people. The companies discussed here, which recently announced plans to grow and expand here in Florida, are evidence that the state is doing the right things to grow jobs and opportunities for its residents.
Time Warner decided to build its new shared services center in Tampa instead of Atlanta. The company has projected creation of 500 jobs, primarily focused in human resources and information technology, during the next five years. It chose Florida because of our talented workforce and our business environment.
In November, I announced that The Boeing Co. will add 550 private-sector aerospace jobs at Kennedy Space Center. By choosing to manufacture its commercial spacecraft in Florida, Boeing is tapping into the built-in talent on Florida’s Space Coast.
IRX Therapeutics is relocating its corporate headquarters from New York to Tampa Bay, a move that is expected to create 280 new jobs in five years.
Colt’s Manufacturing Co. LLC has committed to create 63 jobs in Osceola County for its new regional headquarters and product manufacturing center. Engineering and manufacturing jobs, among others, are included. In 2012, Colt is projected to begin phasing in the first of 63 jobs, paying an average salary of $45,060. The company is making a $2.5 million capital investment in a vacant building that is owned by Osceola County, which it will lease.
Global Components Inc., a division of United Kingdom-based plastic component manufacturer TCB-Arrow, has chosen Manatee County for its U.S. operations and plans to establish 50 jobs over three years, with hiring beginning in early 2012. Officials from the company called Manatee a “great jumping-off point” for continental expansion.
Also, Coca-Cola Refreshments is investing $99 million to expand its Main Street juice production facility in Auburndale. The expansion includes adding 60 new jobs in Polk County, with an average compensation above both the county and state levels.
These are major announcements for Florida. However, it is also the work and risks small businesses take by adding one or two jobs that are helping get our state back to work. Companies around the world are recognizing that Florida is on track to be the best state in the nation in which to do business. And I am proud to welcome them to our great state.
About Richard L. Scott
After law school at Southern Methodist University, he worked for the city’s largest law firm, Johnson & Swanson, primarily representing companies in the healthcare, oil and gas, and communication industries.
In 1987, while still practicing law, Scott made an offer to purchase HCA Inc. When the offer was rejected, he started Columbia Hospital Corp. By the time he left Columbia in 1997 at age 44, it had grown to become the world's largest healthcare company, with more than 340 hospitals, 135 surgery centers and 550 home-health locations in 37 states and two foreign countries.
Much earlier, while enrolled at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (where he earned a degree in business administration) and working full time at a local grocery store, Scott made his first significant foray into the business world by buying two Kansas City doughnut shops for his mother to manage.
Also notably, Scott was in the U.S. Navy as a radar man (active duty aboard the USS Glover), and he lived in public housing as a schoolboy.
5 Questions for the Governor
What's been the toughest decision so far?
“The toughest decision is just trying to figure out how to allocate the dollars in the budget. That's the hardest thing, because there are a lot of things you'd like to do. But in the first year I walked in on a budget deficit over $3 billion. And for the fiscal year starting next July 1, it's almost a $2 billion budget deficit. So the hardest thing is making sure you try to allocate the dollars as well as possible.”
What about the greatest challenge?
“It's making sure you have the wisdom to figure out the right way to get people back to work.”
Have there been any surprises as governor?
“Probably the biggest surprise is how much I've enjoyed the job. There's no better job than trying to have a positive impact on 19 million Floridians. That's probably been my biggest surprise—how enjoyable it is.”
Entering the 2011 holiday season, days before 2012 begins, what keeps you up at night?
“My biggest concern is whether the federal government will do the right thing and get its fiscal house in order, so we can have a good federal partner and get jobs. We've done a good job at getting jobs coming into the state. If the federal government would do what we're doing in Florida, it would be a lot better. The thing I worry about the most is whether there’s going to be a day of reckoning if they don't figure out how to control their budget, and how it's going to impact our state.”
What is your view of the collaboration that is occurring across Tampa Bay and Central Florida, and the need for such working together in the quest for economic growth and global competitiveness?
“I applaud the collaborative efforts of the business communities in Central Florida and the Tampa Bay region to create economic development opportunities that extend beyond the I-4 corridor. The state has added more than 100,000 jobs this year, and partnerships like these help make Florida the best place to live, get a good job and have a great vacation.”
Open for Business
On Dec. 9, the more than 250 attendees of the Regional Business Summit agreed that Central Florida is “Open for Business,” as did key leaders representing Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s Jobs Council: Dale A. Brill of the Florida Chamber Foundation, Tom Beck of the Department of Economic Opportunity, Chris Hart IV of Workforce Florida Inc. and Melissa Medley of Enterprise Florida Inc.
The “Open for Business” Regional Business Summit focused on three regional work groups that have been examining barriers to business success and a vibrant economy. The event was presented by project manager myregion.org—one of the Central Florida Partnership's four lines of business— on behalf of the “Open for Business” Organizing Committee: Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., Central Florida Partnership; Home Builders Association of Metro Orlando; Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission; Orlando Regional Realtor Association; and Workforce Central Florida.
The three regional work groups are “Creating Access to Capital,” “Reviewing Transactional Fees” and “Streamlining Permitting and Licensing.”
In responding to presentations, guests representing Gov. Scott committed their respective agencies to help “build capacity” for the region’s work across Florida by providing assistance in monitoring, measuring and moving the work to market.