ECONOMIC TIME MACHINE

Florida revises ad that over-sold language skills

 

Florida really doesn’t have 5 million multilingual workers. A quick edit fixes the problem on the day of its debut.

dhanks@MiamiHerald.com

[UPDATE: Around 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Enterprise Florida wrote to the Economic Time Machine to say the ad had been revised to fix the error we pointed out earlier in the day. The version of the commercial on the campaign’s website, perfectbusinessclimate.com, no longer mentions multi-lingual wokers in Florida. Here at the ETM, we sometimes have to correct faulty figures, too, so we’ll happily consider the matter closed.]

A new ad touting Florida’s diverse workforce mistakenly puts English-only workers in the minority.

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday rolled out the state’s new “Perfect Climate for Business” campaign, which seeks to convince companies that Florida is just as good a place for commerce as it is for vacations. The television spot that’s a highlight of the campaign includes the line: “We offer a talented workforce of over 9 million, including 5 million multi-lingual workers.”

That’s not right, according to Census figures. Florida does in fact have 9 million people in the workforce, but slightly more than 2 million are both proficient in English and speak a foreign language, according to Mark Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center. And only a portion of those workers are proficient in English, too.

After the Economic Time Machine asked about the apparent mistake Thursday, state officials took the video down from You Tube and edited out the multi-lingual reference on the version posted on the campaign’s website, perfectbusinessclimate.com.

The flub apparently came from Census figures showing Florida as a whole has 5 million people speaking a language other than English at home. But that’s out of a population of 19 million. As in most states, Florida’s workforce constitutes only a portion of the population, thanks to children, retirees and people who choose not to work. (The unemployed are counted in the workforce.)

Within Florida’s workforce, 2.8 million people are listed as speaking a foreign language. Of those, about 600,000 say they speak English “less than well.” Of the 5 million Florida residents who speak a foreign language, about 2 million say they speak poor English, according to Census figures tabulated by Lopez.

Enterprise Florida, a state-funded group, is paying about $125,000 to Jacksonville’s On Ideas media firm to design the campaign, according to this report from the Miami Herald’s Toluse Olorunnipa. And while the ad received lots of free media coverage Thursday, there were no immediate plans for it to air on television, Enterprise Florida spokesman Sean Helton said.

At the Tallahassee roll-out, Enterprise officials said they planned to tweak the ad based on suggestions from the group’s board members in attendance, the Herald’s Toluse Olorunnipa tells us. The entire campaign is pegged at $5 million, but Enterprise needs to raise state and private dollars to fund it.

The Miami Herald’s Economic Time Machine blog seeks to put South Florida’s recovery into historical perspective. We try to take the long view on economic stats. For analysis of the latest economic news, visit miamiherald.com/economic-time-machine and look for our weekly chart on Page 3 of Business Monday.

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