This week was a rough week for economic development in Tallahassee. Representative LaRosa’s bill, HB7067, has basically disbanded the Enterprise Zone program and makes it a local program with no state involvement. Additionally, there are significant issues for economic development as the bill takes out the ability to use the state average wage as a criteria for economic development projects. It also now adds another layer and a slow down to project review and approval as it now requires the Governor to review all projects.
On the Senate side, we are hoping to get Senator Latvala’s bill, SB1214, moving in Appropriations to help with any amendments we need and then it will go to Conference.
and with the House and Senate at a budget impasse, both House and Senate leaders have acknowledged that an extended session or later special session is almost certain. I would encourage you all to reach out now to your delegation to express your concerns over turning back economic development progress in Florida. We need to keep moving forward with our competitiveness agenda. As bills head to the floor, there is still time to ensure that the economic development community is heard.
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Florida’s March Employment Figures Released
Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in March 2015, unchanged from the revised February 2015 rate of 5.7 percent, and down 0.8 percentage point from 6.5 percent a year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in March. Florida’s unemployment rate has been less than or equal to the national rate for 23 of the last 28 months. March 2015 was the 56th consecutive month with positive annual job growth after the state lost jobs for over three years. The industry gaining the most jobs was leisure and hospitality. Other industries gaining jobs included trade, transportation, and utilities, professional and business services, private education and health services, construction, and manufacturing.
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Florida Lawmakers Show Little Desire To Keep Enterprise Zones
Florida’s enterprise zone program is in jeopardy. The program sunsets on Dec. 31, and a Senate bill that would extend it is stalled with less than two weeks left in the legislative session. FEDC along with groups such as the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida League of Cities say the program’s demise would hurt local redevelopment efforts and are lobbying to extend the program and make it more effective. Florida started its enterprise zone program in 1982. There are now 65 rural and urban zones in 52 counties. The lack of motivation among some lawmakers to extend the program stems largely from two state reports that suggest the zones have had mixed results.
A study by the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability found that seven zones it surveyed “generally underperformed” when compared with a decade’s worth of data on property values, household income and unemployment and poverty rates in similar nonzone areas. An analysis of 40 zones by the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research concluded the program produces a negative return on the state’s investment because it mostly shifts economic activity instead of creating it. The reports don’t offer a complete accounting of the zones’ economic and social benefits, said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. Clemens’ bill to extend the program for 10 years with some revisions has yet to be heard by its first assigned committee, the Commerce and Tourism panel chaired by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice. Florida TaxWatch recommends extending the program with several changes, including a periodic recertification to show a zone is effective or still needed.
A House measure, HB 7067, would allow for a “local enterprise zone program” but does not provide state incentives. Rep. Ed Narain, a Tampa Democrat whose district includes a portion of the Hillsborough zone, voted against the bill in committee this week, saying it puts the entire burden on local governments. St. Petersburg’s zone deserves credit for redevelopment progress downtown and in Midtown, said Sophia Sorolis, the city’s economic development manager. Since 2006, the zone’s incentives have created about 700 jobs and about $8 million in credits and refunds, according to city data. Brooksville’s zone has made progress since its creation in 2002, and activity is picking up as the economy recovers, said city community development director Bill Geiger. “If (lawmakers) want to create other types of economic programs to complement or augment it, great, but let’s keep the tool in the toolbox as opposed to just throwing it in the can,” Geiger said.
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Marketing Florida As ‘The Only State To Master The Sun And The Cloud’
Using images of sand sculptures in magazine ads, business boosters are marketing Florida to the nation and the world as not just a sun-and-fun tourist destination but as an economic super state. Now they want the Legislature to chip in $20 million to expand the marketing campaign to include TV ads in major U.S. and foreign cities. The idea is to brand Florida as a high-tech business haven with low taxes: “the only state to master the sun and the Cloud.” Florida has long spent big bucks promoting its tourism, with state spending reaching $75 million this year through Visit Florida, a nonprofit partnership. Market Florida would be the first state-funded promotional campaign designed to entice businesses to set up shop in the Sunshine State and generate good-paying jobs. “Our research told us we need to play on what people already know about Florida — the sun, the sand — to teach them what they don’t know,” said Melissa Medley, chief marketing officer for Enterprise Florida.
Enterprise Florida wants to use state money to expand this campaign to reach executives in places such as New York, Chicago, Washington, Atlanta and Dallas as well as foreign markets in Europe, Britain, China, Japan, Mexico and Brazil. The Florida boosters hope to catch up to other states that spend many millions to promote themselves. According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, New York spends a whopping $140 million for business marketing, California $50 million, Connecticut $27 million, Michigan $25 million and Texas $21 million. “Texans are well renowned for bragging about their state,” said David Hart, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber. “I happen to be a sixth-generation Floridian. I think it’s time for Florida to start bragging about what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve built down here. “We’ve got one of the great tax climates in the country, not to mention our weather. We were good about building this world-class business climate, but we’re not so good about telling our story and bragging about it.” But the boosters have yet to make the sale to the Legislature.
Gov. Rick Scott included $5 million for the marketing campaign in his proposed budget. It fits with the governor’s attempts to lure businesses to Florida, most recently during a swing through California this month, where he touted his state’s low taxes and limited regulations. The Florida Senate put $5 million into its preliminary budget. The state House has yet to earmark anything for the marketing campaign. Enterprise Florida still hopes to secure substantial funding before the Legislature adjourns, but it’s not clear when they will occur. A budget dispute could prolong the session or force lawmakers to return for a special session to resolve money matters. “What’s most important to us is that whatever amount that is approved is recurring so we don’t end up with a one-time shot,” Medley said. “You need to be able to promote your message in an ongoing fashion over time. I would almost rather get $5 million recurring each year than get $20 million once.”
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Manufacturing Sales Tax Exemption Aimed At Economic Growth
Gov. Rick Scott is asking the Legislature to make a manufacturing sales tax exemption proposed in his 2015-16 budget a permanent measure to give Florida businesses a real opportunity for growth. Manufacturing employs more than 317,000 Floridians. The sales tax exemption covering manufacturing machinery and equipment was first implemented on a limited basis in 2012. In 2013, the Legislature extended the exemption for three years to last from 2014 through April 30, 2017. An analysis by Florida TaxWatch, a nonprofit taxpayer research institute and government watchdog, estimates the exemption would save qualifying businesses across the state $142.5 million in taxes on machinery and equipment purchases annually. The scope of industries covered by the bill is expansive and touches nearly every conceivable product or service offered by Florida businesses. The exemption applies to a broad range of manufacturing types, including food production, tobacco, textiles, clothing and footwear, wood, paper products, printing services, petroleum products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, plastics, rubber, metal fabrication, glass, concrete, HVAC, communications technology, aircraft and motor vehicles, medical supplies, jewelry, household goods, furniture and more. Knowing which incentives are available is a key strategy for any business owner to get a leg up as new tax exemptions are being added to give Florida a better business climate.
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Florida’s Cruise Industry Poised For More Growth
Florida’s cruise industry is expected to see more growth, according to the new economic report from independent research institute Florida TaxWatch. The more than 9 million cruise passengers that sailed through state seaports in 2013 generated $7.3 billion in direct spending, the report from the nonprofit group in Tallahassee concluded. Florida’s cruise industry welcomes more cruise passengers than any other state in the nation, Florida TaxWatch said. The growth of cruising in Florida also helped to create 140,408 jobs statewide in 2013, the report noted. And more than half of U.S.-based cruise line employment is based in Florida. “Florida’s growing cruise industry is another great way to attract visitors to Florida, which helps to keep the tax burden low for our state’s residents,” said Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic M. Calabro, in a statement.
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BDB Adds Two New Economic Development VPs
The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County (BDB) is announced recent additions to its professional team to help meet the influx of economic development growth opportunities in Palm Beach County. Lynne Stein Benzion, CEcD has been appointed as Vice President of Strategic Planning and Luke Jackson was named Vice President, The Glades Region.
Benzion, a Certified Economic Development professional, will work on a wide variety of special projects including the BDB’s Familiarization Tours; its five task forces; business, retention and expansion activities; and research. Leading an expanded focus on economic development programs in the Glades, Jackson will be responsible for retention and expansion opportunities in South Bay, Pahokee and Belle Glade. He will attend city council meetings, court prospects and work closely with the Lake Okeechobee Regional Economic Alliance (LORE).
“We’re thrilled to welcome Lynne and Luke aboard during this exciting period of growth taking place in Palm Beach County,” said BDB President and CEO Kelly Smallridge. “Their respective experience in various economic development roles will help the BDB further its mission to stimulate economic energy, promote business diversity and enrich the vitality of Palm Beach County through the relocation, retention and expansion of companies to our area.”
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Holmes County Development Commission Plans Branding And Grant Search
The Holmes County Development Commission hopes a new branding campaign and seeking out possible rural development grants will give developers more reasons to glance in Holmes County’s direction. While HCDC tries to keep sights on regional development, competition in neighboring counties is quickly increasing to land new clients and projects for expansion. This turned the conversation to the commission’s need for a member well-versed in grant writing and research to seek rural development grants. Executive director Raymon Thomas then asked commissioners to help him produce a marketing brochure on what Holmes County has to offer as a place to live, work and play around a major thoroughfare. The goal is to give potential grant sources and outside investors something attractive to look at that showcases Holmes County’s strong points.
Thomas reported he met last month with economic development non-profit group Opportunity Florida for help submitting a proposal to a manufacturing outfit. He also submitted a proposal through Florida’s Great Northwest to an electronics assembly company seeking a 6,000 to 8,000-sq. foot building with ample parking and a high-tech delivery bay. Thomas submitted a proposal to another manufacturing firm looking to expand in Florida or Texas that could provide 35-50 new jobs. The company needs a 25,000 to 50,000-sq. foot building, which Thomas said HCDC could seek a grant from USDA to help construct. As industrial park projects move forward, commissioners will channel efforts to spreading the word on what the county uniquely offers and finding capital to back growth initiatives.
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Volusia Officials Try to Lure Private Space Company Blue Origin To Oak Hill
While local economic development officials wait to see what happens next in their quest to lure an aerospace manufacturer to Volusia County, the company they’ve been hoping to attract has been revealed as Blue Origin, the private commercial space flight company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson confirmed last week that he personally has talked to Bezos. “I and a number of others are working hard to attract new business to Florida’s Space Coast,” Nelson said. “Among other things, I have talked to Jeff Bezos and urged him to come here.”
Volusia and state economic development officials have worked for months with a consultant scouting potential sites in several southeastern states for aerospace-related manufacturing. The officials refer to the project only as “Project Panther,” and would not confirm the company is Blue Origin, citing non-disclosure agreements they’ve signed. Excitement about the project ramped up a notch last week when Blue Origin announced it had reached a critical stage in the development of one of its new rockets. In a press conference at its Kent, Washington, headquarters, company President Rob Meyerson said the company has completed acceptance testing of its new rocket engine, the BE-3. The announcement generated a wave of excitement in the industry nationwide because the engine is the first new hydrogen engine to be developed in the United States in more than a decade. In the news conference, Meyerson confirmed the company was looking at launch sites in Florida. Keith Norden, president and CEO of the Team Volusia Economic Development Corporation, would not comment specifically on Project Panther, or any of the other aerospace-related projects being discussed. However, it’s very important for Volusia County to attract those kinds of jobs, “higher pay, skilled aviation and aerospace-related,” he said. “Team Volusia’s mission is to create higher paid jobs for our citizens.”
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Nestle USA to Shift Shipments To JaxPort
Nestle USA will shift a majority of its U.S. to Puerto Rico shipments from the Port of New York and New Jersey to JaxPort, Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday from California. Nestle USA’s volume to Puerto Rico is expected to grow by at least 400 percent over the course of the next six months, making it the fourth highest volume export for Nestle. “On top of Florida’s great business climate and low taxes, Florida has 15 seaports that we have invested over $850 million in to ensure we are poised to lead the nation in expanded international trade opportunities,” Scott said after a meeting with Nestle representatives in California. “Nestle already employs over 2,000 people in our state and we look forward to the many more jobs they will create by utilizing JaxPort. We will continue to meet with companies today in California to tell them why Florida is the best location for their business to succeed.”
“Businesses are recognizing that Florida’s ports provide a more cost-effective option and a better overall business environment than many of our competitors, and as a result are moving more of their freight through our ports,” said Doug Wheeler, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council. “The growth of global companies in Florida is a direct outcome of the commitment and focus of Gov. Scott, the Florida Department of Transportation and Florida’s ports on enhancing the freight infrastructure in our state.”
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Collaboration Between Institutions Will Benefit Florida
When great minds come together to solve real-world problems, everyone benefits. Florida Atlantic University, Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience and The Scripps Research Institute recently entered into a “game-changing” agreement that will bring to life a vision deeply rooted in solving serious societal health issues, enhancing economic development and accelerating scientific discovery. Bringing together a leading public research university and two premier research institutions will build a public-private partnership that will help cure diseases, develop lifesaving drugs, educate aspiring scientists, spur economic development and serve as a catalyst for ground-breaking discoveries that will shape our future.
Combining the talents of Max Planck, Scripps and FAU faculty and researchers will provide access to teaching spaces, and other vital resources. Furthermore, FAU’s life sciences initiatives, anchored in Jupiter, will see a surge in student population, particularly in the STEM fields of biology, bioengineering, bioinformatics, chemistry, computational biology, engineering and neuroscience. Honors students will be heavily engaged in undergraduate research as a part of a newly designed curriculum. By leveraging the strengths of all three entities, we will collectively be more competitive in pursuing large research grants while educating a new generation of scientists for the workplace and making a greater impact on our world. This collaboration is vital to the region’s success for entrepreneurship, technology incubation and commercialization.
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Ruby Tuesday Opening Regional Office In Orlando
Restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday is opening a regional administrative office in Orlando, Gov. Rick Scott’s office said Monday. The Maryville, Tenn.-based chain plans to employee about 45 people and spend $250,000 on the new space. The new office will include positions in marketing, finance, development and IT. “We are incredibly appreciative of the partnership with Governor Scott and the team at Enterprise Florida,” Ruby Tuesday president and CEO JJ Buettgen said in a statement. “The new regional office will serve as a great complement to our Restaurant Support Center in Tennessee, allowing us to continue focusing on our brand transformation efforts.”
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“Fresh From Florida” 2014 International Sales Reached Record $4.2 billion
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam recently announced that international exports of “Fresh From Florida” products increased last year to $4.2 billion, an all-time record. This is the third year in a row that Florida exports have exceeded $4 billion. “International demand continues to rise for ‘Fresh From Florida’ fruits, vegetables and other commodities, and we reached an all-time high in 2014,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “Our export successes support more than 109,000 Florida jobs and have an economic impact of more than $13 billion.”
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ export report, Florida’s $4.2 billion in agricultural exports last year generated a total economic impact of more than $13 billion and supported more than 109,000 jobs. Florida exports agricultural products to about 160 countries and territories each year. Canada continues to be the leading destination, receiving almost a quarter of exports, followed by the Bahamas, the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. The fastest growing major markets include Colombia, South Korea, Mexico, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates. The state’s leading export commodities include meat, fruit, vegetables, juice and nuts. Orange juice is the state’s number one export. The state continues to be a leader in exporting grapefruit, strawberries, watermelons, blueberries, tomatoes, peppers and snap beans.
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