August 23, 2014

Up Front

Focused on Florida's Strengths

Bruce Faulmann | 9/1/2009

I tend to be a "glass half full" guy. Tell me the unemployment rate is 10% and I’ll respond that 90% of the people are working. I’m not minimizing the fact that nearly 1 million Floridians are out of work. That’s a big number and a lot of pain and anxiety for job seekers and their families. I just rarely see anything improve when the focus is solely on what’s wrong. That’s how I feel when I read articles filled with gloom and doom about Florida and its future.

Bruce Faulmann
Bruce Faulmann, Publisher
[Photo: Mark Wemple]

Two years ago The Wall Street Journal asked "Is Florida Over?" A more recent article in the Charlotte Observer blamed Florida for the poor performance of North Carolina-based companies doing business here. And in July, The Economist magazine headlined "Sorrow in the Sunshine." It seems Florida is now the "Kick Me State," as Robert Trigaux pointed out in a recent piece in the St. Petersburg Times.

Despite the dark clouds hovering over us, Florida has always been an enormous draw for people wanting a better life and for businesses planning to grow. And we will be again. True, we’re experiencing a decline in our state’s population for the first time since World War II, but most experts see this as a one-year anomaly. Starting next year, our population will start growing again, with seven million more Floridians expected by 2030. Our economic condition may have deteriorated over the past two years, but our biggest and most valuable asset — the state’s beauty and quality of life — has not.

When I hit the road every morning and travel across Tampa Bay from my home in Tampa to my office in St Petersburg, I’m captivated by the amazing views of soothing blue-green water, sparkling city skylines, lush palms blowing in the breeze under blues skies and sunshine, and bustling jet traffic from TIA carrying visitors from all over the globe. Daily, I think to myself, how absolutely gorgeous and exciting it is to live here, and I know it’s a feeling shared by Floridians who experience equally stunning scenery in the course of their daily lives. That’s why we’re here, and that’s why more will follow.

I find my enthusiasm for Florida’s future is shared by most business, political and civic leaders. There’s a great passion to fix the weaknesses that have been exposed by the economic meltdown. I see strong momentum building behind three key issues: developing a more diverse knowledge-based economy; building a top-notch K-12 and higher education system; and constructing a world-class transportation system to support business, tourism and residents. Boiling it down, it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs and getting Floridians back to work.

For Florida, the "reset" button has been pushed. I’m hearing reports from economic development executives in many parts of the state that their phones are ringing. With home prices at new lows and talented people looking for work, Florida once again makes good business sense. We contrast our situation now to when we were at the top of the market and companies doing business here or considering doing business here were faced with escalating home prices and difficulty attracting and retaining talent due to near total employment.

No doubt we have issues that need to be addressed in our state, but I’m always going to look for the positive in any situation. To think Florida is over, that’s just nuts!

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