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May 21, 2018

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Florida CEO Trends Survey Analysis: Challenges Ahead

2008 was a lackluster year and Florida's CEOs project 2009 will be similar or worse.

Economic change brings new priorities

Not surprisingly, as economic conditions have shifted, so have the priorities of Florida’s CEOs. Each year respondents are asked what in their view is the most pressing problem facing their organizations in Florida.

Over the past eight years, two issues have been cited repeatedly as Florida CEOs’ top concern. When the economy has been experiencing strong growth, the problem most often referenced by the CEOs of Florida’s largest companies was difficulty recruiting and retaining employees. This was the case in 2000 and 2001, and in the three surveys between 2004 and 2006.

On the other hand, in 2002 and 2003 when Florida was reeling from the effects of 9-11, the biggest concern of CEOs was the uncertain economic outlook. In 2002, economic uncertainty was cited by 42% of CEOs as the most pressing problem facing their organizations in Florida. A year earlier, economic uncertainty had hardly been mentioned at all, rating concern among only 3% of the CEOs interviewed. In the 2003 survey, the uncertain economic outlook was again the problem cited most often, but the frequency fell to 32%.

Over the course of the past two years, uncertainty about the economic outlook has returned to the top of the list. In the 2007 survey, uncertainty about the economic outlook was cited most frequently (41%), but it was followed closely by difficulty recruiting and retaining employees (37%). In this year’s survey, the percentage citing the economic outlook rose to 62%, while recruitment and retention fell to 10%.

CEOs adapting; looking past the downturn

This year’s findings from the Florida CEO Trends survey are more pessimistic than those from any previous year, but they are not without positive implications. Led by their CEOs, Florida businesses are adapting to the state’s economic challenges. They are maintaining a strong focus on the Florida market as they expand into other markets in the U.S. as well as internationally. Business leaders are keeping wage increases in check and are also using a variety of approaches to contain their costs for employee health insurance. At the same time, energy costs are being addressed with conservation, fuel efficiency and other initiatives with important environmental benefits.

Moreover, history shows that economic downturns in Florida last only about a year, and they are followed by much longer periods of sustained growth. Florida’s prosperity is enduring because it is supported by economic and demographic trends that are national and international in scope and momentum. Industry will continue to move to the Sun Belt; Florida will continue to attract opportunity-seeking people from other nations; and travel and recreation will continue to be a priority in the lifestyles of advanced nations. Although Florida’s population growth has slowed in the past two years — as is normal in economic downturns — just over the horizon is a new wave of growth that will come as the huge generation of Baby Boomers enters retirement.

About the Author: Lance deHaven-Smith is a professor in the Reubin O’D. Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University. A former president of the Florida Political Science Association and the author of 15 books, one of which won the Manning Dauer Prize for scholarship from the University of Florida, Professor deHaven-Smith has written and conducted research on a wide range of topics, including survey research, Florida growth and development, and national, state and local government.

Other Contributors
Ginger Broslat, John Dunn,
Christine Jordan Sexton, Janet Ware and Jeff Zbar

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