The recent spate of articles critiquing Gov. Rick Scott’s job-creation efforts and results are unfair and mostly misleading.
Some perspective: I am not a Republican. I did not vote for the governor. I have been on the board of directors of Enterprise Florida for 15 of the past 17 years. I have worked with seven of the last eight governors, Democrat and Republican, some quite closely. This governor’s economic-development efforts have been as good as the best of them and better than most.
During the past three years, we added 440,000 new private-sector jobs in Florida. Our unemployment rate dropped from more than 11 percent to under 7 percent. This record leads the nation. Of course, neither the governor nor Enterprise Florida can claim full credit. Certainly an improving national economy, federal stimulus and the Federal Reserve all contributed. But there are also reasons why Florida's job creation outstripped that of every large state.
One of those reasons is that the governor has led the state to promote the best regulatory and tax environment for businesses. Florida also has some natural advantages (location, ports, weather, a diverse and multilingual population), but these advantages must be touted and sold. The governor has been salesman-in-chief. I have traveled abroad with him four times and seen how seriously he takes his role and how hard he works at it.
As far as the facilitated job growth, much of it seeded with state incentives:
• No one likes incentives. But the competition (other states and countries) uses them, and it would be foolhardy to unilaterally disarm.
• Florida’s job-creation incentives are far less than the competition offers, a status we are able to achieve because of the aforementioned natural advantages. We don’t start a negotiation with cash or tax incentives. That is the last element, the sweetener that closes the deal.
• The Herald cannot seriously believe that when a Hertz announces it is moving its corporate headquarters to Southwest Florida and creating 700 new jobs, that those jobs appear overnight. It takes time to build a facility, ramp up hiring, integrate and train employees. But by the same token, the incentive money “committed” is not paid up front, but only after the promised jobs are created. If the jobs are not created as promised, a company does not receive incentive money.
• In addition to 700 jobs of a Hertz or 300 new high paying jobs of a Univision (in Miami-Dade), and many more similar corporate locations and expansions of this sort, these companies invest large amounts in capital improvements. For example, Univision is spending nearly $300 million. This translates into construction jobs and equipment sales and millions of dollars in new property-tax revenue for the local governments. Also, there is the multiplier effect: All these newly employed and highly paid employees buy or rent homes, buy TVs and clothes and food locally, go to restaurants, use the dry cleaners, etc.
The bottom line is this: There is a reason why Enterprise Florida and Miami-Dade’s Beacon Council have been the most acclaimed and widely copied economic-development models in the country, and why Gov. Scott can fairly take credit for much of Florida’s recent job-creation success.
Attorney Alan Becker is a former state legislator, former chair of The Beacon Council and member of the board of directors and executive committee of Enterprise Florida.