tampabay.com

Driving our economy higher, with integrity

By JEB BUSH
Published September 10, 2006


Florida leads the nation in job growth and has a bright future; however, a recent St. Petersburg Times article, "Deal Me In," and subsequent editorial, "Private Favors," unfairly cast doubt on the process and participants who help create our flourishing economy.

The Times inexplicably focused on the theoretical faults of our hardworking economic development team, rather than look at the facts. The truth is, each day Florida's business development leaders, volunteers and workers better prepare Florida for its future by helping create high-value, high-wage jobs for Floridians, and expanding an already robust economy. These individuals do this with the highest amount of integrity.

During the last eight years, Florida has become one of the strongest business climates in the world, offering strong returns on investments for taxpayers, local communities and the state. Objective data place Florida in the top 10 in critically important high-tech, high-wage, capital-intensive industries like simulation and optics, aviation/aerospace, medical device manufacturing and life sciences.

Our high quality of life, friendly business climate, skilled work force, accessibility to fine universities and community colleges, and top-notch R&D, are great amenities. But states and nations in competition with us for economic development opportunities also offer business incentives. To maintain our high quality of life, continue growing good jobs and ensure Florida prospers in the long run, it is imperative that we match our competitors by sometimes offering incentives to close the deal.

To protect the state, we put safeguards in place to ensure any incentive dollars offered to a company are only awarded after specific criteria, such as job creation and capital investment, have been fully met. Ultimately, incentives are determined by the company's performance.

The entire economic development process, including offering business incentives, is based on accountability and performance. Routine audits bear out the fairness and transparency of the process, making it impossible for individuals participating in economic development or business leadership activities to be put at an advantage, as the Times suggests. Furthermore, the incentive process is completely independent from the Enterprise Florida board - EFI board members do not vote on any incentives or offer their input.

Rather, it is our local communities that drive the majority of our economic development and decide whether they want to be a financial partner by offering an incentive award to a company. Communities are finding that they benefit from the increased capital investment. This allows them to generate revenue for schools, parks, community amenities and critical infrastructure needs.

Our economic development plan is working. As the first state to disband its Department of Commerce in favor of a public-private partnership model, we have benefited from direct marketplace feedback and strategic business community guidance. Florida is growing more - and better - jobs than our competitor states.

Thanks to the commitment of Florida's business, academic, research and development communities, and private sector leaders, our economic development efforts are poised for sustained economic success that will benefit families, businesses and communities throughout the state well into the future.

Jeb Bush is the governor of Florida.