Economic development is a competitive field, but some political leaders want to pull up the welcome mat in Florida.
A bill in the Legislature would kill Enterprise Florida, the public-private partnership that fosters job growth in the state, and severely curtail funding for Visit Florida. Both moves run counter to basic business logic: You have to keep reinvesting to succeed.
The Koch Brothers and some of their supporters in the Legislature think states shouldn’t be in the business of offering job incentives. That may be a well-intentioned free-market philosophy, but we’re living in the real world. Look at the competition: Go to Georgia.org, and the state is happy to tell you how businesses can get corporate income tax credits of up to 50 percent of a company’s state tax liability. Texaswideopenforbusiness.com has 23 bullet points that outline the state’s incentive program.
Unfortunately, in Florida, there’s a big feud between Gov. Rick Scott, who supports the agencies, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a fellow Republican. A bill in the Florida House would kill both organizations. Both organizations are widely supported by economic development officials in South Florida, who see Enterprise Florida as a key partner in attracting new businesses to the state and Visit Florida as a great collective way of promoting the state to visitors.
Yes, there have been some issues with Enterprise Florida. One prominent example in South Florida is Digital Domain, which was allotted $20 million in incentives. The reality is, Enterprise Florida said the incentives were a bad idea, but the Legislature put the allocation in a budget amendment.
Plenty also has been written about recouping $77.6 million in incentives received by Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in Orlando. The reality is, state leaders tried a moonshot to attract biotech companies. That is not typical of the day-to-day deals that state and local governments make.
Better examples: American Express made a $167 million capital investment to consolidate operations in Broward County, create 100 new jobs and keep 4,399 others. In Miami-Dade County, Telemundo Enterprises invested $250 million and added 150 jobs with a facility that will have 1,100 jobs.
Do you think Georgia or Texas would have liked those projects?
When it comes to Visit Florida, tourism is an extremely competitive field. Cutting back ads after the recent Zika scare isn’t a smart idea. With some legislators’ attitudes, it really will be “Better in the Bahamas.”
There might have been some oversight issues with both agencies. (I’d love to see a return on investment analysis on Pitbull’s $1 million deal with Visit Florida.) However, the Legislature needs to help fix these important agencies and provide better guidelines and oversight instead of dissolving them. They are too important for the state’s economic future.