The Texas-Florida Connection
Can Florida emulate Texas in creating jobs? Here's a comparison.
[Photo: Ray Carson/University of Florida]
"Any community that expects significant outward investment has to invest in itself," says Dean Barber, a site-selection consultant in Dallas-Fort Worth. "You can't expect a company to come in and build a plant if you haven't been investing in excellent schools" for the children of executives and workers.
High school students who graduate in four years:
Florida - 66.9%
Texas - 73.1%
National - 74.7%
Adults with a bachelor's degree:
Florida - 25.6%
Texas - 25.4%
National - 27.5%
Source: U.S. Census
High schoolers who take the SAT:
Florida - 54%
Texas - 50%
National - 45%
Florida - 497
Texas - 505
National - 515
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2007/08 academic year
In one area, Florida may have a competitive advantage: Companies with blue-collar training needs increasingly seek programs like those offered through the Florida College System that provide industry-specific training, including the advanced manufacturing program at Polk State College and life sciences training at Palm Beach State College. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently ranked Florida No. 1 in the nation in such programs.
But when it comes to universities as generators of private companies and high-paying jobs, Texas has a big head start. The University of Texas at Austin has been spinning off and recruiting major technology companies since the late 1950s and early '60s, when Gainesville and Tallahassee were still sleepy college towns.
Today, Austin is the headquarters of Whole Foods and Dell. Other Fortune 500 companies with a local presence include Apple, IBM, 3M, Hewlett-Packard, Google, AMD, Applied Materials, Cirrus Logic, Cisco Systems, eBay, PayPal and Florida-based Office Depot, which just relocated its new inside-sales organization there — with 200 new jobs — after a $300,000 award from the Texas Enterprise Fund.
John Doggett, who studies global competition at the UT Austin business school, attributes the city's success to "stealing brains" from the rest of the world — and rewarding professors for commercializing research that creates jobs and wealth.
At this point, both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Gov. Rick Scott seem more focused on higher-ed costs and efficiencies than larger missions. Among other moves, both have drawn beads on tenure for university professors, a step that campus administrators say would make it nearly impossible to lure and retain the faculty most likely to spin off companies.
With the caveat that higher-education rankings can be capricious, only two Florida universities this year made the top 100 in U.S. News & World Report's rankings of the best in the nation: Private University of Miami (No. 47) and public University of Florida (No. 53). A half-dozen Texas campuses made the list, starting with consistently top-ranked private Rice University in Houston (No. 17); the University of Texas at Austin (No. 45); Southern Methodist University (No. 56), Gov. Scott's law school alma mater in Dallas; Texas A&M (No. 63), which is Gov. Perry's alma mater in College Station; private Baylor in Waco (No. 79); and private Texas Christian in Fort Worth (No. 99).
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