October 2, 2023

Sowell to exit top job at Enterprise Florida

Enterprise Florida President and CEO Jamal Sowell will step down as the leader of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ business-recruitment efforts this month to prepare for specialized training with the U.S. Navy Reserve.

No interim or permanent replacement had been named as of Monday morning.

Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, called Sowell “indispensable” in making Florida “the beacon of opportunity and prosperity for the entire country.”

“He has done outstanding work as the president and CEO of Enterprise Florida since January 2019, leading EFI through the once-in-a-generation economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pushaw said in an email.

In a letter Thursday to DeSantis that said he will leave the job in late October, Sowell wrote he has received orders to attend specialized military training.

“While I have served in Afghanistan as a Marine Corps Officer and now continue to serve as an officer in the Navy Reserve, I still feel compelled to the call of service,” Sowell wrote.

Sowell praised DeSantis, a U.S. Navy veteran, for his handling of the state’s economy through the pandemic.

“What you did was very simple but very different from other states, you let the world know that we were open and ready for business,” Sowell wrote. “That alone drew remarkable interest in Florida and Florida businesses, sparking a migration of hundreds of thousands of new residents here.”

Sowell also credited DeSantis’ policies for helping Enterprise Florida pave the way for the relocation or expansion of companies such as Chewy, Inc., Dun & Bradstreet, Boeing, UPS, Pfizer, The Blackstone Group, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Disney.

“My personal highlight in this role was the 2019 Israel Trade Mission,” Sowell wrote. “As you know, my major in college was religion and I spent a semester living in Israel. Your support of Israel has made serving in your administration even more meaningful.”

A veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Sowell was a student-body president at the University of Florida and was an assistant to former University of Florida President Bernie Machen.

Sowell was the Port Tampa Bay chief of staff in December 2018 when tapped by DeSantis to run Enterprise Florida. Sowell was initially picked by DeSantis as part of his post-election Transition Advisory Committee on the Economy.

Sowell was scheduled Monday to take part in a panel discussion in Coral Gables as part of the World Strategic Forum. Enterprise Florida is a public-private agency chaired by DeSantis, with a board that includes many top political and business figures from throughout the state.

The Florida Channel and Florida Politics reported Sowell’s departure over the weekend.

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