Gray Swoope: The true story of economic development


Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 5:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 5:36 p.m.

For the second year, Enterprise Florida, Inc. is spending time addressing misrepresentations by Integrity Florida, taking EFI away from its mission of working with businesses to relocate to or expand in Florida, thereby creating jobs for families and investment in our communities.

You can find all the facts in our response at www.eflorida.com/IntegrityFlorida. What is more important is the true story of economic development in Florida over the last two years and why it is working.

When Gov. Rick Scott took office in January 2011, Florida had its highest unemployment rate since 1970, when the state began tracking it. The state had lost 800,000 jobs in four years before the governor came into office and unemployment had risen from 3.5% to 11%. The state also suffered from the perception that it was not business‐friendly. Under Gov. Scott's leadership, it was only a matter of months before his proactive efforts and those of his new economic and workforce development teams began changing that mindset. Since taking office, Florida's unemployment rate has dropped to 8 percent and 188,400 private sector jobs have been created.

Let's breakdown some of what Enterprise Florida does to help the state's economy. One aspect of Enterprise Florida's mission is the cultivation of competitive job creation projects – projects that are considering multiple locations for new growth or expansion. Working with our economic development partners in all 67 counties, we assist businesses looking to bring new investment in the state and those who plan to expand which may be considering options outside the state.

While incentives are an important part of the economic development toolkit, they are in no way the only tool. Incentives are often needed to sway a company's decision – at the end of the negotiation process – toward one location when other factors such as workforce, education, infrastructure and business‐climate are equal. The results of Florida's use of incentives are clear.

For completed incentive contracts in the last three years, the four‐year economic benefit was 86 percent higher than projected. The companies, which receive performance‐based incentives: created 52 percent more jobs than required; paid an average wage 59 percent higher than required; and received 13 percent less in incentive payments than projected. These numbers are a win for taxpayers!

We continue to be relentless in our pursuit of projects. In the last two years, EFI announced 314 new projects that are contracted to produce 35,226 new jobs and more than $3.2 billion in capital investment in our communities. That represents 40 percent more projects, 74 percent more new jobs and nearly 95 percent more capital investment in the last two years. Recent announcements in Gainesville include:

Mindtree Limited ‐ Gainesville

* Global IT and product engineering company

* 400 new jobs; $2.925 million in capital investment

Prioria Robotics, Inc. – Gainesville

* Unmanned systems company

* 40 new jobs; $2.034 million in capital investment

Projects receiving incentives are only a small portion of the work EFI does. A larger untold story is that of international trade. Since taking office, Gov. Scott has led seven EFI international missions -– more than any other governor in the same time period. The goal of these missions is two‐fold. First, they introduce Florida's businesses to global trade opportunities through introductions to prospective clients and markets that provide exporting

potential. Second, the missions aim to attract job‐creating foreign direct investment into the state.

Over the last two years, the results from EFI's international trade include:

* Expected export sales reported by Florida companies assisted by EFI: $1.501 billion

* Export Counseling Sessions with Florida companies: 12,959

* Major Overseas Events: 44

* Participants: 806

* Governor led missions: 7

* Export Sales from Governor led missions: $182.5 million

As you can see, EFI is helping Florida's businesses find new customers on an international scale, grow their business and, ultimately, create more jobs.

However, these two sets of numbers reflect just a small portion of the hard work that your Enterprise Florida staff puts in each day to help improve our economy and quality of life. We encourage you to follow our progress, look at the results and draw your own conclusion about the importance of our job creation efforts in our state.

Gray Swoope is Secretary of Commerce and President and CEO of Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership serving as Florida's primary organization devoted to statewide economic development.

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