April 24, 2014

The Texas-Florida Connection

Hold Your Horses, Gov. Rick Scott

Can Florida emulate Texas in creating jobs? Here's a comparison.

Cynthia Barnett | 9/28/2011

Gov. Rick Scott
[Photo: Jon M. Fletcher]
Before 1989, driving due north 20 miles out of Fort Worth, Texas, would find you amid wheat fields and herds of the longhorns that gave the city its first nickname — "Cowtown." Today, the same drive steers you into a booming industrial-development project, larger than Manhattan, that has helped the Dallas-Fort Worth region live up to its self-chosen identity as the "Metroplex."

AllianceTexas is a 17,000-acre mixed-use development anchored by the first industrial airport in the U.S. and one of the largest inland ports. Master-planned by Dallas billionaire Ross Perot Jr.'s Hillwood Development Co. over the past 20 years, it has transformed the prairie land north of Fort Worth into an employment hub with 30,000 jobs and counting. Alliance helped make Dallas-Fort Worth the fastest-growing metro in the United States between 2000 and 2010.

More than 260 companies have been drawn to the dry, flat landscape, including a tenth of the Fortune 500. The FedEx hub here is the third-largest in the U.S. At American Airlines' supersized engineering center, 767s are lined up wing to wing for maintenance. Earlier this year, GE Transportation chose the site for its $96-million locomotive manufacturing facility, expected to add another 750 jobs, further establishing AllianceTexas as an icon of Texas' economic surge.

AllianceTexas
The 17,000-acre mixed-use development AllianceTexas turned an area north of Fort Worth from "Cowtown" to "Metroplex," but it relied heavily on government funding and involvement. [Photo: AllianceTexas]

Florida Gov. Rick Scott knows Texas well. He lived there during law school at Southern Methodist University, then as he began his legal career and while founding and leading the company that became hospital giant HCA. All told, Scott lived in the Lone Star State for 10 years more than the eight he's spent in Florida.

Scott says his choice to settle in Florida reflects his belief in its advantages over most other places, including Texas. Still, his regard for all things Texas finds expression in his black cowboy boots, hand-stitched by Houston's Rocky Carroll with Florida's state seal and the words "45th Governor." And there's one thing beyond footwear he covets particularly: The Lone Star State's job growth.

GE Transportation
GE Transportation is building a $96-million locomotive-manufacturing facility that's expected to add 750 jobs. All told, more than 260 companies have a presence at the AllianceTexas site. [Photo: AllianceTexas]

In the wake of the mid-1980s oil bust, Texas re-engineered its economy into a diversified engine that has retained a strong energy sector but no longer rises and falls with it — witness the growth of Alliance and emergence of Austin as one of the top high-tech centers in the world.

Gov. Scott's Boots

[Photo: Jon M. Fletcher]

In the past decade, Texas added more private-sector jobs than any other state in the nation. That included 30% growth in the energy sector, but the state's business/finance and biomedical/biotech clusters also grew 30%. While Texas manufacturing saw a net loss of jobs, the sector still outperformed the national manufacturing economy by a significant margin. A Brookings report on the recession and recovery found four Texas cities — Austin, El Paso, Dallas and McAllen — among the 20 top-performing metro areas in the first quarter of 2011, measured by a combination of economic factors including home prices, employment and economic output.

Scott attributes the Lone Star State's good fortune to policies and laws that keep taxes, regulation and legal liability for businesses relatively low — and a hands-off style of government. And he's already tried to bring a taste of Texas to the Sunshine State. Scott, for example, has moved to dismantle Florida's growth-management bureaucracy in an effort to replicate Texas-style, local-controlled approval for development. Next year, he wants to work on "serious" tort reform for Florida. Texas has spent more than a decade making it harder to sue business, including a "loser pays" provision passed this year that requires plaintiffs to cover defendants' attorney fees if a judge finds a suit unwarranted.

But a closer look at the dynamics of growth in Texas reveals a much more complicated set of factors behind the state's economic surge. Not all can transfer east to the Florida peninsula. Of those that could, not all should. Following are key points of comparison.

Population
Florida: The fourth-largest state, with 18.8 million residents
Texas: The second-largest state, with 25.1 million residents
Source: U.S. Census

Poverty
Residents living below poverty level
Florida - 15.0%
Texas - 17.1%
National - 14.3%
Source: U.S. Census
Median Age
Florida - 38.7
Texas - 32.3
National - 35.3
Source: U.S. Census

Go to Links What do you think about the whole Florida -vs- Texas debate? Let us know, click to comment at the end of this article.

Tags: Politics & Law, Around Florida, Government/Politics & Law

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