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Incentives bring high-wage jobs to Florida

By JEB BUSH
Published April 17, 2005

Your April 10 story, Risky business, was a complete misrepresentation of the facts surrounding the state's approach to economic development and its use of incentives. The truth is more than 37,522 Floridians now have jobs because of performance-based incentives - on average paying above the state average wage.

Throughout the whole article, you missed the point.

Economic development is about promoting sustainable communities, in part through supporting private sector success. Businesses create jobs and without those jobs, families suffer, communities suffer and government services suffer.

An objective review of the facts tells the real story. Economic incentives are about providing a community with the resources it needs to compete for jobs and business investment. But incentives are just one part of a much broader strategy that aims to build an economy offering Floridians higher-wage jobs. Our economic strategy includes ensuring a strong quality of life, capable work force, and business-friendly climate conducive to investment and productivity. These factors, when combined with incentives where necessary, have made Florida the nation's leader in job creation for close to three years.

One program you mentioned frequently in your article is the state's Qualified Targeted Industry (QTI) program. In fiscal year 2004 alone, QTI played a key role in 73 business location or expansion decisions, helping to bring more than 9,600 jobs to Florida's citizens, paying 144 percent of the state's average wage.

Since 1995, Florida has invested $67-million in QTI and, in that time, the program has yielded a payback of at least $207-million - a 3-to-1 return on investment. In fact, a report recently released by the Collins Institute indicated the state's return on investment for QTI is actually $12.69 for every dollar expended.

These incentive programs undergo rigorous audits to ensure tax dollars are used appropriately. Since 1999, over 14 regularly scheduled audits have been conducted by the auditor general, inspector general, and the Legislature's Accountability Office on the Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development (OTTED) alone.

We welcome these reviews as the changes they recommend help us refine processes. In fact, the auditor general's 2004 audit noted that OTTED administered incentive programs in accordance with applicable laws and legislative intent.

Any company understands, including the St. Petersburg Times, when recruiting (or retaining) employees, it is necessary to offer competitive wages, a quality workplace, and sometimes, a bonus incentive to secure the hire. It is no different for Florida as we compete with other states and nations to recruit (or keep) value-added companies. When considering a home, a company looks at the "total package" - quality of life, work force, business climate, and, with all things equal, incentives offered. The total package determines whether the company will create jobs in Florida or elsewhere.

I, for one, prefer to stand behind Florida's communities as they compete for quality jobs to ensure local sustainability. I'm proud of our efforts and will continue to support our communities with a common-sense approach to spur economic growth.

[Last modified April 17, 2005, 00:25:16]

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