Ready, set go! This was the last week of legislative committee weeks and there are many moving parts. If you were unable to join the legislative affairs call today, here is a recap. The Enterprise Zone discussions and whether or not the legislature will let it sunset was center stage this week. The coalition of many cities, counties, businesses, economic development organizations and associations are feverishly working with the House and Senate and have proposed some reforms. They are in the areas of marketing, re-designation, reporting, adding the hiring of Veterans as a component, tiers to the program and clarifications to the statutory language as areas of opportunities. As we move through this ever fluid process, and it will be fluid, we will need you to continue to work with your state legislators to voice your support for reform and reauthorization.
Also, next week there will be all the resources you need on our advocacy pages of the FEDC website including our
3802 Spectrum Blvd.
Kathy Baylis, Founder of Sarasota EDC, Died Sunday
The founding president of the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County, Kathy Baylis, died on Sunday. Baylis, who was 67-years-old, spent her energy on diversifying the economy in Southwest Florida. She also served on the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority for six years, according to the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Her economic development career spanned more than 15 years and included taking the EDC out of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and out on its own. "The EDC came into being because Kathy Baylis had extraordinary determination and focus," Jeanne Corcoran, Sarasota County Film and Entertainment Office director, told SRQMagazine.com. "Although a realist about what made economic engines run, she was a optimistic visionary about supercharging that local engine up to maximum efficiency and speed."
We at FEDC are very saddened by the news of Kathy's passing. She was a focused force in the economic development community in Florida and will be greatly missed.
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Florida Job Demand And Consumer Sentiment Continue To Rise
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announced last week that the number of online job openings in Florida were up in January 2015 with a total of 279,244 openings (seasonally adjusted), according to data released by The Conference Board’s Help Wanted Online. Also in January, Florida’s consumer sentiment index was 93.3, up from the revised December 2014 index of 87.6. Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio said, “After four years of economic growth, we now see job demand and consumer sentiment at levels that reflect confidence in Florida’s economic future. The Scott Administration will continue to support the low-tax, pro-growth policies that have supported this turnaround and created opportunities for Florida families.”
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Florida Sees Record Tourism in 2014
A record 97.3 million visitors traveled to Florida in 2014, the fourth consecutive record year, according to preliminary estimates Monday by Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation. Tourism increased 3.9 percent over 2013, Visit Florida said. The previous record was 93.7 million tourists in 2013. Last year, about 11.5 million visitors came from overseas, with 3.8 million more from Canada, up 2.6 percent and 2.4 percent respectively. Both were records. The improving economy and increased flights between Florida and Europe and Latin America fueled higher tourism statewide and in South Florida.
Statewide, a record number of people — 1,135,700 — were employed in the travel industry in 2014, up 3.6 percent from the year before, Visit Florida said. The state Department of Economic Opportunity estimates that of the 9.1 million people currently employed in Florida, 1.1 million have jobs tied to the tourism industry. The increase in visitors also means additional revenue for the state. Visit Florida President and CEO Will Seccombe told legislators last week that about 12 percent of all state sales-tax revenue comes from people who don’t live in Florida.
Gov. Rick Scott has asked lawmakers to increase tourism-marketing funding from $74 million in the current fiscal year to $85 million during the budget year that begins July 1. He has been pushing for Florida to surpass 100 million visitors a year. Visit Florida hopes to attract wealthier international travelers, who will spend more, and to entice people to consider Florida for bicycle trips and small-downtown shopping in addition to Disney World and the beaches. Seccombe outlined the marketing plan during an appearance before a Senate budget panel last week.
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Okaloosa County EDC Wants Business Tax Exemption Extended
The economy is improving and the time is right to encourage business growth and expansion in Okaloosa County, according to Okaloosa County Economic Development Council director Nathan Sparks. That’s why Sparks and his counterparts are encouraging any bill that would extend indefinitely a sales tax exemption for businesses purchasing equipment to be used in manufacturing. “This is one piece of many in our ongoing effort to enhance Florida’s competitiveness,” he said.
A bill that would make the exemption permanent has been introduced in the state Senate (SB 316) and EDC Associate Director Kay Rasmussen encouraged Okaloosa legislative delegation members last week to support it. Sparks argues the sales tax exemption provides a large incentive for businesses to expand operations, which in turn “solidifies their presence” in Florida. The state, in turn, benefits from property taxes collected by the businesses and presumably from increased employment as people are hired to operate the new equipment.
The states of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana have all established sales tax exemptions for businesses purchasing manufacturing equipment, Sparks said. “We have to keep up with the Joneses,” he said.
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Florida Ports Want Help in Luring Shipping Firms
The top lobbying group for Florida’s seaports wants the state to establish a marketing campaign to help lure cargo-shipping companies from major ports in other areas of the country. A study released this week by the Florida Ports Council calls for lawmakers to create an advertising effort to entice shipping firms to move cargo through the Sunshine State rather than ports in Savannah, Houston, New York or even Los Angeles. The council’s study on global-trade opportunities and challenges also wants lawmakers to create incentive programs to attract import-distribution centers as well as export-oriented manufacturing companies.
“Florida has improved its position as the global pier for the U.S. and is one of the leading states for import and export of goods,” the report said. “However, in this era of global competition for jobs and tax revenues, Florida’s ports must continue to build a competitive logistics infrastructure.” Any marketing plan would have to challenge the ports in New York and Charleston, which are the key non-Florida ports used to bring imports to Florida from Europe, the report said.
Bill Johnson, the incoming chief executive officer of Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm, pointed to a work slowdown on the West Coast because of labor negotiations as an example of an issue Florida can use in its campaign. “We all know what is happening on the West Coast of the United States,” Johnson said. This is an “opportunity to bring in greater product and commodity … directly to Florida from Asia.” As part of Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $9.9 billion budget for the Department of Transportation, $109.6 million would go for seaport upgrades. Lawmakers will consider that proposal this spring as they draw up a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
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Meeting the Manufacturing Workforce Demand in Northwest Florida
Last year, the Community Economic Development Association, in conjunction with the University of West Florida Haas Center for Business Research & Economic Development, released a study on current and future employment trends for the community’s targeted industries. The labor market gap analysis helps determine what steps need to be taken in order to help a community reach a particular goal. The analysis engaged business and education together to identify existing and future employment demands and training needs of the greater Pensacola area’s targeted industries of advanced manufacturing and information technology. The study identified a need for 2,150 new and replacement workers in the advanced manufacturing industry in the next five years.
A consortium from Locklin Tech, Pensacola State College and manufacturing business partners recently took a tour of manufacturing training programs at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The trip allowed the opportunity to identify best practices in lab space, facilities, curriculum, experiential learning and hiring practices as area educational institutions explore implementation of new training programs to meet increasing demand for a skilled, manufacturing workforce. “The greater Pensacola area is poised for growth in the advanced manufacturing sector and our partners in education have been at the forefront of working with business to develop training to meet their needs,” said Scott Luth, president and CEO of CEDA. Locklin Tech is in the process of implementing an Electrical and Instrumentation Technology program to begin in the fall. Pensacola State College is also exploring how a Process Technology program could complement their existing manufacturing training programs.
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