Should we give more money to Enterprise Florida?

Whitney RawlsOpinions


As the first Committee Week, in preparation for the 2016 Regular Session, comes to a close, in the hot seat is Governor Scott’s request for more money for Enterprise Florida.

I watched Wednesday’s Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meeting as Senator Jack Latvala grilled Enterprise Florida’s President and CEO, Bill Johnson. I applaud Senator Latvala and other Senate leaders for their tough questions for Enterprise Florida as I believe we have to do more to protect taxpayer dollars and ensure that our money works for us. Enterprise Florida’s role in spurring economic development for Florida and its partnerships with our local and regional economic development entities is essential to the progress of Florida. It’s wise use of funding is paramount. In fact, economic development is key to growing our local economies, creating jobs and helping our families. However, at the nucleus of the argument is the fact that Enterprise Florida has funds that it has not yet spent and already the governor is asking for more money, to the tune of $80 million, with no additional guarantees. According to the Sunshine State News, Enterprise Florida has already received “$78 million this year from the state for incentives, marketing and other operations. The agency also receives another $2.5 million to $4 million annually from its private members, which include many of the largest businesses in Florida.”

While I’m a fan of providing funds for economic incentives for companies to relocate to Florida, those taxpayer dollars have to come with explicit and measurable benchmarks. We need to ensure that our monies paid to companies looking to relocate to Florida actually do provide for “x” number of jobs. And, we need to ensure that those jobs go to Floridians. This would make our contribution toward economic development an investment in Florida’s future.

Here’s a thought: Why not take the additional $80 million requested and give a portion to each of the cities in Florida and give them and their local chambers the financial support to offer their own economic incentive packages?

Lastly, I agree with Senator Jeremy Ring’s position, Enterprise Florida needs to include, in its mission and scope of services, resources and funding for innovation, incubation and entrepreneurship opportunities that will give Florida what it needs to become a destination that not only attracts businesses but also creates them right here in our state. We have many brilliant minds in Florida and an investment locally will heighten our ability to compete with California, New York and other states, as well as globally.

For more on this, you can watch the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meeting from 9/16/2015 via The Florida Channel here.