April 20, 2014

The Business of Being Governor

Rick Scott and Florida Inc.

The corporate world lacks legislative and judicial branches. This month, as the Legislature convenes, Florida's first modern CEO as governor -- and the state -- will find out what that means for his plans to transform our state government.

Amy Keller | 3/1/2011

Gov. Rick Scott
[Photo: Jon M. Fletcher]
The job of governor and that of chief executive officer of a corporation are very similar, says Bob Martinez, Florida's governor from 1987-91.

Both governors and CEOs, he says, have to understand how a large organization functions. Both have to understand finance. Both need to know how to lead. "I think the goal setting, the visioning, the objectives ... there's a lot of carryover from private to public," says Martinez, who now works as a senior policy adviser for the Holland & Knight law firm in Tampa.

Indeed, the single most striking thing about Gov. Rick Scott since he took office in January may be the degree to which he sees the governor's job in corporate terms. So far, Scott's tactics are textbook CEO:

» Eliminate what he views as non-productive assets, whether by selling state-owned planes or abolishing the four-person Florida Drug Control Office, a move that will save approximately $500,000. His budget eliminates all manner of activity he doesn't consider "core functions" of the state, including grading eggs and spending $26,000 to market alligator meat produced in Florida. "I just can't imagine why we'd be doing things like that."

» Control costs. Moves include requiring the state's more than 650,000 public employees to pay toward their pension accounts and shifting new hires, as the private sector has done, into a defined contribution plan instead of a traditional defined benefit plan. Scott's first budget, announced in early February, calls for billions in streamlining measures. Among other moves, he plans to combine the Department of Community Affairs into the Department of Environmental Protection and eliminate regulatory activity he believes is already carried out at the local level.

» Measure results and drive productivity, which Scott sees primarily in terms of job generation. Along with tax cuts and other organizational moves, Scott re-created a Department of Commerce whose secretary will have an office near Scott's and hold what amounts almost to an unelected Cabinet position, coordinating the activities of Enterprise Florida, the Agency for Workforce Innovation and the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development and ensuring that departments like Community Affairs, Transportation and Environmental Protection don't get in the way of deals.

The words "laser-like focus" have become cliché in describing the new governor and his relentless schedule of meetings, phone calls and consultations with anyone anywhere he thinks could help Florida grow. "Even when you hear him talk about taxes, he makes a clear connection back to jobs," says Armando Olivera, president and CEO of Florida Power & Light. "I think that's very appropriate given where Florida is and where we are during this economic downturn."

Tags: Politics & Law

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