Looking at the bigger economic picture
Attorney Alan Becker, new vice chairman of Enterprise Florida, takes his economic development focus statewide.
As the former chairman of Miami-Dade’s economic development agency, Alan Becker had a role in building south Florida’s booming economy. Now, Becker is focusing his attention on the entire state. The new vice chairman of Enterprise Florida has been working closely with Gov. Rick Scott this year on what’s arguably the governor’s top priority: Creating jobs. The founding shareholder of Becker & Poliakoff spoke with Florida Trend about his increased responsibilities at Enterprise Florida.
Explain your new role.
“Enterprise Florida is a true public-private partnership. The chairman is always the governor. The vice chair is a private-sector leader, elected by the board, who actually chairs the meetings and sets the agenda. The vice chair works with the governor and the professional staff to advance Enterprise Florida’s mission of bringing businesses to Florida, helping businesses expand in Florida and facilitating trade, all with a goal of adding good, high-paying jobs to the state. As with most things, the time you put in will vary with the degree of commitment and engagement. Like my time as chair of the Beacon Council in Miami-Dade, I plan to be fully engaged and committed to accomplishing our goals. I interact regularly with the governor’s office, Enterprise staff and board and participate on foreign and domestic trips to promote the state and meet with companies and site selectors.”
Why is this something that you want to do?
“Early in my career, I was fortunate to be in public service as a legislator. Now, late in my career I am honored to again be able to serve in a role that can help develop a stronger economy and create a better life for our citizens. The opportunity to promote our state and assure good jobs for our people is something I consider important work and enjoy doing.”
You are a former Democratic state legislator and now you work with Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican. How do you keep politics out of the economic development process?
“Someone once told me you can’t take politics out of politics. That is true, but I consider myself fortunate to be working with this governor because his priority is our mission — jobs. When I was elected to the Legislature in 1972, I was a Democrat. There were two types of Democrats in those days, the traditional Democrat and the so-called ‘yellow dog Democrats.’ Today most of the latter would be Tea Party Republicans. I went to Tallahassee thinking that I could never get along with people like that. But I learned quickly that they believed in their principles the same as I believed in mine, and they were representing their constituents just as I was representing mine. It made it easy to understand the importance of compromising and sometimes outright trading, working together where you can and debating passionately when you disagree. I am still a Democrat but have no problem working with Gov. Scott and in fact supported his re-election. I admire his focus and his expectation of accountability and return on investment.”
What are your expectations of Bill Johnson, Enterprise Florida’s new CEO, as he replaces Gray Swoope?
“Gray Swoope may be the best economic developer in the country and is widely admired for his knowledge of the field. He helped elevate Enterprise Florida to a new level and make Florida a serious player in the global competition for business location and job creation. He created a great professional team and outstanding culture, which Bill Johnson will inherit. Bill will be able to build on that because he brings additional talents. He is a great leader as he has demonstrated many times over in Miami-Dade. He is a terrific marketer who has ‘sold’ Florida for years around the world and will continue to do so. Aside from his outstanding organizational skills and boundless energy, he brings to the job a love for Florida and commitment to our state second to none.”
How will your Enterprise Florida responsibilities impact your role at Becker & Poliakoff?
“Almost three years ago, I turned over the role of managing shareholder to Gary Rosen, who has been doing a great job growing the firm into some new practices like IP and new geographies like Washington, D.C., and Virginia. That left me with the best gig in the law business — handling whatever clients and matters I want to and devoting time to the areas which I most enjoy. One of the things I have been involved with at the firm during the past couple of years has been helping to build our public-private partnership practice team, combining existing core competencies in government, construction law, real estate law and corporate finance into a ‘new’ field that is taking off in Florida and around the country. Florida is well-positioned to be the leader in PPP nationally with the recent statute change and pending legislation.”