October 2, 2023

Enterprise Florida Closure Teed Up

A bill that would close Enterprise Florida, the state’s business-recruitment agency since 1996, was formally sent Tuesday to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The bill (HB 5), a priority of House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, would shift existing contracts and more than 20 programs to the Department of Economic Opportunity, which is being renamed the Department of Commerce.

The changes would take effect July 1, the start of the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Numerous incentive programs would be fully repealed, including the Office of Film and Entertainment.

But the new Department of Commerce would pick up 20 positions and $10 million a year as part of the shift. The bill also would designate the Visit Florida tourism-marketing agency and the Florida Sports Foundation as “direct-support organizations” under the Department of Commerce.

The two agencies would have to enter agreements with the department to continue existing programs. In March, Renner said Enterprise Florida had “outlived” its usefulness.

“Enterprise Florida has over-promised and under-delivered for years and drains funds from higher priorities,” Renner said as the annual legislative session opened on March 7.

“If this were Washington, D.C., it would live on forever, unchanged and unchallenged, but the Florida way requires us to retain only what works and eliminate what does not.”

Several years ago, Enterprise Florida became the subject of a battle between then-Gov. Rick Scott, who supported the agency, and House leaders over business incentives.

Then-Speaker Richard Corcoran repeatedly referred to incentives offered directly to companies as "corporate welfare."

Corcoran’s successor as speaker, Jose Oliva, described incentive deals as going against the free market and favoring large corporations. At the time, Enterprise Florida survived but with less funding.

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