Governor disputes Times' findings

By Times Staff Writer
Published April 10, 2005

The office of Gov. Jeb Bush, which touts the state's economic development efforts, takes issue with some of the findings in today's St. Petersburg Times report.

Pamella Dana, who as director of the governor's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development oversees the state's economic development efforts, declined to speak to the newspaper.

But in a statement last fall, the governor's office said it had "serious concerns about what appears to be an intentional decision" by the paper to accept only facts that support its theories and "disregard those that may call them into question, or prove them wrong outright."

In the statement, the governor's office:

** Took issue with the newspaper's analysis of the annual cost of economic development, calling it "more than misleading."

** Defended its oversight of tax incentives programs as a rigorous, contract-based process. "A company must meet the job creation terms of its contract in order to receive any tax refund," the statement said. "If the company fails to meet these terms it does not receive the tax refund. Period."

** Accused the paper of focusing on a few projects "with disappointing results, generalizing them to characterize incentives as a failed strategy."

The newspaper "refuses to consider the fact that economic development in Florida is a long-term strategy," the governor's office said. The Times does not "demonstrate an understanding that there is inherent risk in business and - though it is an exception rather than the rule - some economic development projects will not produce the desired results due to market conditions and economic events."

The governor's office also urged the paper to examine some of the success stories of economic development. It suggested four examples. One of them was JPMorgan Chase & Co., which has "located several major projects in Hillsborough County in response to incentives offered by the state and community."

Three months later, JPMorgan Chase announced it will close its credit card call center in Tampa by the end of this year and eliminate 1,900 jobs.