Up Front - The Publisher's Column
Luring business to Florida
As a member of the board of Enterprise Florida, the public-private partnership charged with job development in the state, I have witnessed firsthand the tremendous energy and talent that Gov. Rick Scott has brought to the effort.
No area of government is more important to the governor than job creation. Three years ago, he stole a consummate professional in Gray Swoope from Mississippi, naming Swoope president of Enterprise Florida and jointly as Secretary of Commerce.
The two, along with a cadre of teammates, have been tireless in touting Florida. I have personally witnessed them energize a moribund system. They have traveled the nation and the world extolling the benefits of locating businesses in Florida.
Some critics do not understand that business is competition. Any company relocating to Florida — or one staying here instead of moving — makes its decision based on what’s best for its own business, not to be nice to the governor.
These companies have cornerstone requirements. They are interested in tax rates. An available workforce. Transportation. Education. Utility costs. Incentives. And lifestyle. Each company considers a grid of factors unique to that organization. To win that competition, Florida must have more “A” grades on the grid than any other state.
Attracting business is also about sales and marketing, but many critics do not understand this key element. To even be considered, Florida has to be in the game. Not only do we need advantages to tout, we must travel widely and advertise those advantages. We must establish personal relationships with site selectors and corporate bigwigs. Shyness doesn’t help.
Some critics do not understand the lag time in economic development. Sure, Hertz made a big announcement last May about moving its headquarters to Fort Myers. But it started investigating locations a year earlier. Then it had to purchase the land. Recently, it broke ground for its building. The whole process could take three years from start to finish. And that’s fast.
Some critics do not understand the role of perception in economic development. To be simplistic, everyone understands that Florida is “tourist friendly” with beaches, resorts, sports, shopping, museums, great food and warm weather.
But is Florida “business friendly?” What does that even mean? It means that Florida has a welcoming policy that helps business locate, grow and prosper. It means we have top officials who want to help business succeed.
Does Florida bat 1,000%? Not a chance. Every “at bat” doesn’t result in a corporate relocation. Every new company doesn’t grow just the way it planned. That’s simply the reality of the free enterprise system, where ambitious executives try . . . and sometimes fail.
So I would simply ask the critics to step back and understand that Florida is in the hunt for new business as never before. It won’t be a straight line. Some people in other states may be a tad upset. But Floridians will end up with more job prospects thanks to this strong effort.
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Fitness update: Back to the agonizing weight-loss plan — no French fries, no bread, no desserts for 60 days. We’ll see.
— Andy Corty