Gov. Rick Scott said the state needs to market itself and offer business incentives in order to continue growing jobs, but the House has voted to eliminate Florida’s economic development organization and cut marketing dollars.
Scott spoke against the cuts at a roundtable with Northeast Florida city officials and business owners Monday morning at Harbinger, a sign making company on Jacksonville’s southside.
The governor spoke against a bipartisan group of five Northeast Florida state representatives — Cord Byrd, Kimberly Daniels, Tracie Davis, Jason Fischer and Clay Yarborough — who voted this month to abolish Enterprise Florida, the agency that offers incentive packages to businesses. All of the lawmakers but Davis also voted to cut dollars from Visit Florida, the state’s corporation for tourism marketing.
‘We’re on a roll. Why would we change what’s worked?,” Scott said. “We’ve added 1.3 million jobs in six years, 1.3 million people that didn’t have a job six years ago have a job today. Enterprise Florida, it’s transparent. We get a great return on your tax dollars.”
He added one in every six jobs in the state is tied to tourism, which includes tourism jobs and hotel stays.
Visit Florida came under scrutiny last year for paying rap artist Pitbull $1 million to be a state tourism spokesperson.
Several local officials came in support of keeping the funding, including Florida State College at Jacksonville President Cynthia Bioteau, and Jacksonville City Council members Danny Becton, Aaron Bowman and Jim Love.
“Jobs aren’t going to grow themselves,” Love said. “You have to go out there and get them. Every other state is doing it and if we stop doing it, it’s just going to make it easier for them."
“They’re licking their chops when Florida stops advertising and telling how great it is.”
The council members credited Enterprise Florida incentives for helping bring Amazon to Jacksonville and expanding Johnson & Johnson.
But as our sister station WLRN reports, Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, said many jobs promised in exchange for incentives never materialized. He’s sponsoring the defunding bills because he said there are better uses of taxpayer dollars, like public safety or education.
The bills now move to the senate.
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Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.