As we have one more Committee week in Tallahassee before the start of the 2015 Session, many things are happening and we want you to know. Enterprise Zones are a hotbed item and many organizations are working to try and have them reauthorized as they are scheduled to sunset December 2015. Next week Tax Watch will be presenting in front of the
. This will take place on Wednesday, February 18th from 10AM-Noon. Additionally Enterprise Zones will be taken up in Senate Finance and Tax on Monday, February 16th from 4PM-6PM. Both of these meetings should be broadcast and accessed from your computer if you would like to hear the discussion. Go to floridasenate.gov, click on media and view broadcast schedule. I will be making comments at both meetings on behalf of FEDC.
As I mentioned at the top of this message, there are many people working on this issue but we are starting to hear that the appetite to reauthorize is not there. There is also talk about creating a grant program of some sort to take its place. We, the coalition of FEDC, Florida Chamber, League of Cities, Association of Counties and many others are being asked to provide input as to criteria. I am hoping to have information for you all next week and to have a conference call with members to update all of you perhaps late next week. I will keep you posted. Additionally, we all need to be reaching out to our legislators on the funding the toolkit, and especially the Florida marketing campaign. Next week on our legislative pages of the FEDC website, you can find tools such as ourr
and other resources for you to use over the next two months. Please use them and refer to them often. We will need you to reach out to your legislators often during Session.
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Bill Johnson Is Already On The Job
Technically, Bill Johnson hasn’t started his job as Florida’s point man for economic development. Physically and vocally, it’s another story. Although he won’t replace Gray Swoope as the state’s secretary of commerce and president and CEO of Enterprise Florida Inc. until March 1, Johnson’s plan of action to grow jobs in the state is already unfolding, which doesn’t come as a surprise to those who know him best. “He hits the ground running,” said Bill Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
He’ll join Gov. Rick Scott on a trip to Philadelphia at the end of February, to try to lure job creators and business leaders away from there to Florida. He’s using his vacation time from the county so he can do both jobs, as he helps his replacement in Miami-Dade transition into his former role. In his new post, Johnson said his first order of business will be to listen. He plans stakeholder forums to meet with the leaders of local Chambers of Commerce, local economic development agencies, and local seaports and airports to get ideas on how to improve and strengthen Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development arm. He said he’s already strategizing with others on how to pull off the brainstorming sessions.
The meetings will help Johnson determine how Enterprise Florida’s business plan and outreach programs can be tweaked to make the agency better. He has no criticisms of Swoope, who resigned after four years at the post, adding that he’s done a phenomenal job carrying out the taxpayer-funded agency’s mission to diversify the economy and create high-paying jobs. “My job is to take it to the next level,” Johnson said. “My job is to be open and to listen in a constructive way to ideas and suggestions.”
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Florida's Great Northwest Primary Sponsor of Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference
This year, for the first time, a northwest Florida economic development group is the primary sponsor of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference. Florida wants to recruit companies to build the aerospace industry in Florida, said Jennifer Conoley, economic development representative for Gulf Power Company. “It was a way to get in front of the audience,” Conoley said of the $15,000 sponsorship from Florida’s Great Northwest, an association of groups representing the Florida panhandle.
“The U.S. at this point in time has become the hot spot in aerospace manufacturing,” Kevin Michaels, a vice president at ICF, said at the annual Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference this week. “Comparative advantage is a fleeting thing. Three years ago it looked like everything was heading to China. Now that’s changed.” The Florida panhandle region is surrounded by five major aircraft facilities, including Boeing, Airbus, Gulfstream and two Embraer SA (EMBR3.SA) plants, has 60,000 aerospace and defense workers, numerous military bases and more than 500 aerospace and defense companies. So far, most companies looking to set up there are European suppliers that need to be close to the Airbus factory in Mobile, though some Pacific Northwest companies are looking, said Jennifer Conoley.
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Senators Question Scott’s Request For More Tourism Money
Gov. Rick Scott wants to boost funding for the state’s tourism-promotion arm by $11 million in a quest to increase the annual number of visitors to Florida to 100 million. But some members of the Senate Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee raised questions Tuesday about the return on investment if they hike funding for Visit Florida to $85 million during the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The state estimated a record 93.7 million visitors in 2013. Visit Florida President and Chief Executive Officer Will Seccombe said that number should be surpassed when the 2014 figures are released in the couple of weeks.The state recorded an estimated 74 million visitors during the first three months of 2014. Seccombe said the increased investment by the state, which is used for year-round national and international marketing efforts, is responsible for more people coming to Florida.
Seccombe estimated that about 50 million visitors each year would come to Florida regardless of advertising, due to family, friends and other personal interests. But the competition has grown as other states realize the economic impact of tourism, he said. “We’re trying to talk visitors from around the country and around the world to separate from their hard-earned money and their precious vacation time, which Americans aren’t taking enough of, to come spend their money in Florida,” Seccombe said. “We’re by far the biggest destination in the U.S. And everybody is trying to take those visitors from us.”
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Florida Space Industry to Visit Capitol on March 25
Representatives from Florida’s aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee on March 25, 2015, to participate in Florida Space Day and share with legislators the opportunities the industry brings to Florida and the nation. Former NASA astronaut Mike McCulley, Space Shuttle Pilot of STS-83, the mission that deployed the Galileo spacecraft to explore Jupiter, will be making scheduled appearances throughout the event. Space-related exhibits will be available on the third floor rotunda of the Capitol. “The business of space impacts all of Florida,” said Andy Allen, former astronaut and chair of Florida Space Day 2015. “Home to more than 500 aerospace companies employing over 30,000 professionals, Florida has the third largest space industry in the nation.”
This year’s event is critical, as the state’s space industry continues to expand and change to face the dynamic international marketplace. During Space Day, industry leaders and other aerospace supporters will meet with House and Senate members, as well as the Governor, to discuss the state’s $9 billion space industry, and determine the best strategies for leveraging international markets for Florida’s benefit in the years ahead. Florida is poised to capitalize on emerging aerospace opportunities as well as open new frontiers in exploration and discovery. Home to two of just eight commercially-licensed spaceports in the country, Florida is one of only three states already conducting commercial orbital launches. “Increased space opportunities translate into high tech, high paying jobs,” said Allen. “It is imperative that Florida grows to enable an atmosphere for space exploration and business.”
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Black Tech Week to Celebrate Innovation, Diversity
The inaugural Black Tech Week, slated for Feb. 23 to 28, will bring black tech innovators, entrepreneurs and investors from around the world to South Florida to celebrate black innovation. Events will include a two-day summit at Miami Dade College North Campus, pitch competitions, a hackathon and other networking events around the area. Black Tech Week aims to change the narrative surrounding the black community and replace it with innovation, creativity and technology, said Derick Pearson. He and wife Felecia Hatcher co-founded both the company Feverish Pops and Code Fever, an organization that teaches minority youth how to code, create technologies and become entrepreneurs. While Code Fever is the leading force behind Black Tech Week, it is supported by a steering committee of community leaders plus the Knight Foundation, Baptist Health South Florida, Accelerate Google, Miami Dade College’s North Campus and other organizations.
“I’d like to see the business community rally around this. We should be positioning South Florida to do business in the Caribbean and in Africa,” said Fabiola Fleuranvil, who is on the steering committee and is a marketing entrepreneur. She is on the Beacon Council’s New Leaders Taskforce, where she was a past chair, and organized a monthly meetup for black professionals that is going on its sixth year. “Black Tech Week is also an opportunity to see there is a different Miami … as we further extend the story of Miami with its new tech and startup scene.” Find more information and tickets: www.blacktechweek.com
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Osceola County Approves $67.5M in Bonds for UCF ‘Smart Sensors’ Research Center
The Osceola County Commission took a big step toward creating a 100,000-square foot research center that would develop smart sensors for cars and appliances, voting Monday to approve up to $67.5 million in bonds to fund the project. The board unanimously approved issuing Sales Tax Revenue Bonds “for the principal purpose of the acquisition, construction and equipping” the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center on a 20-acre site across from the Osceola Heritage Park on the Judge Farms property.
County Commissioner Mike Harford said the county is “committed to the technological diversity of our economy. This is a step in the direction of doing so, adding high tech and high wage jobs.” Last year, Osceola County approved $61 million for design, construction and equipment costs, to be paid for through the bonds. The University of Central Florida, which will operate the center, will provide $10 million to design and build it, lease the building for 30 years for $1 a year and provide $7 million in faculty hires. The project already has its first contract, $10 million for Skanska USA for preliminary design and building services, with eventual construction to cost an estimated $70 million. Skanska was ranked first out of eight national construction companies who bid on the project.
Total project cost is estimated to reach $270 million by the time it opens in 2016, with the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and Enterprise Florida also committing money. UCF, which already has a College of Optics & Photonics and a Center for Research and Education in Optics, has led the effort to bring contracts to the facility – including a potential $110 million contract with the Department of Defense’s Air Force Research Lab. The Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, the University of Florida and the University of South Florida also are partners in the project.
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The Economic Development Council Kicks Off “Made in Tallahassee” Campaign
As the region’s official economic development organization, the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County, Inc. (EDC) is shining the spotlight on the important and diverse products that are made or manufactured in Florida’s Capital City and sold around the world. The multi-year multi-platform Made in Tallahassee: Produced Regionally, Sold Globally public awareness campaign kicks off this month, and will focus on the importance that the research & development, manufacturing, software development, and technology industries play in the success of the local economy by highlighting one local business each month which produces services or manufactures products locally that are sold or consumed on a global scale.
“Our MSA is home to a rich and diverse network of visionaries, suppliers and component manufacturers, and a tremendously productive workforce, and we’re excited to showcase the innovative products and services being made in Tallahassee,” said Kyle Touchstone, Executive Vice President of the Economic Development Council. “We will highlight these visionary businesses to statewide, national and global audiences, as well bring awareness among our local community, and draw attention to those high tech and high wage industry sectors which are keys to our community’s future success.” The announcement of the Made in Tallahassee campaign was announced by EDC Chair Dr. Jim Murdaugh at the EDC’s Winter Forum.
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Tampa Cybersecurity Company Expanding
Sunera LLC, an IT and data risk consulting firm, is growing as fast as the spreading security risk to companies nationwide, said Casey Kochey, marketing content strategist for the company started by Emmett Lange and Peter Armstrong. The company, a subsidiary of Cyber Risk Management LLC, is combining two smaller offices into a half-floor of leased space at the Fifth Third Center in downtown Tampa. Sunera is investing $185,000 into the space upgrade. Kochey said the average salary for the new employees will be $65,000, and they will include data privacy professionals, IT auditors, hackers and internal auditors.
The company is receiving $164,000 in hiring incentives through the state’s Qualified Target Industry program, with the city of Tampa contributing $29,520 of that and Hillsborough County contributing $3,280. The company must create the jobs before it receives the government funding. Florida ranks second in the nation for tech job growth and third for high-tech establishments, according to a news release issued by Gov. Rick Scott’s office on Friday. The state’s software and computer systems design and integration industry is one of the largest in the U.S. with nearly 12,600 firms. Sunera’s expansion is another example that this community is continuing to create “very high skill and high value jobs,” said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., which helped broker the deal.
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IHMC Breaks Ground on 30,000-square-foot Expansion in Downtown Pensacola
Senior research scientist Jerry Pratt is excited about the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition’s new $8 million expansion. He and his 24-person team work on humanoid robotics, exoskeletons and other IHMC projects at a warehouse at the corner of Tarragona and East Wright Streets in downtown Pensacola. When the new 30,000-square-foot expansion of the IHMC’s 40 South Alcaniz Street headquarters is completed in spring 2016, it will house all 100 Pensacola-based IHMC employees who are currently spread out over four downtown locations. Another 20 employees are based out of Ocala.
Speakers like Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, Rep. Clay Ingram, and Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson praised the IHMC’s research and described it as a beacon of bringing high-paying and highly-skilled jobs to the area. Karl Blischke, director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Division of Strategic Business Development, spoke about the state’s resurgence in economic indicators such as unemployment rates, job growth rates and tourism over the past four years. “Efforts like IHMC research and the expansion of your facility contribute to the Florida turnaround story,” Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson said, also mentioning Avalex Technologies, AppRiver, and the military bases as key pieces of the state’s post-recession resurgence. “Pensacola is leading the charge in so many areas.”
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State to Help Revitalize City of Webster
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) will be working with the city of Webster – population 785 – to create a strategic economic development plan. Webster has been selected to participate in the Competitive Florida Partnership, which focuses on improving local economic development activities, particularly in the rural areas of the state, the DEO said in a press release.
“The Competitive Florida Partnership program piloted in 2014 was a huge success for the participating communities, helping them to harness their strengths and assets for economic and community development,” said Jesse Panuccio, the DEO’s executive director. “We look forward to working with the city of Webster to explore the economic development opportunities in the community, share best practices, and engage a robust network of community and business leaders.” The program helps rural communities value and market local assets, and challenges them to set realistic goals for advancing their economic development visions. The program will help Webster design and develop innovative strategies that promote partnerships, community design and a viable local economy.
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Florida Tax Watch Report: Enterprise Zones Fill Vital Need
The Enterprise Zone program, scheduled to sunset in December 2015, is unlike any of the state’s other economic development program. Rather than recruiting high-wage businesses to Florida, the Enterprise Zone program works to encourage development and job creation in areas with little business investment. Get informed about the need to reinstate Enterprise Zones during this legislative session!
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