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Friday, July 15, 2011

Where are the jobs govenor Scott


Gov. Rick Scott's professed priority is to create jobs and make Florida more business-friendly.

So far, the results have been modest. A few mid-size relocations have been announced with great fanfare, but virtually all were in the works before Scott became governor. There is no questioning the governor's determination to lure companies, but many in the business world believe that Scott, despite his corporate background, may be doing more harm than good.

Corporations are not likely to commit to a state that is in upheaval — as Florida seems to be as Scott seeks to eliminate longstanding policies with little thought about the consequences.

"One thing valued by senior management who are seeking to grow a company is stability," a veteran site-selection consultant, who now is cautious about recommending Florida to clients, told us. "They are extremely uncomfortable with radical change."

Yet Scott has been quick to initiate haphazard changes — jettisoning development policies, revamping water controls — that leave the state's future standards uncertain.

Business consultants do applaud Scott's selection of Gray Swoope as his chief economic development officer. Swoope earned praise for his performance in that role in Mississippi. They also support the governor's efforts to eliminate unnecessary regulations and streamline a permitting process that can be slow and costly for those wanting to invest in the state.

But the governor has not been content with expediting permits and reforming the regulatory system. He seems intent on dismantling the growth management and environmental regulations that protect Floridians from gridlock, crowded schools, crime and pollution.

The results are unlikely to be a Florida where many executives will want to raise their families.

Moreover, the hard push of the developers' agenda suggests the governor's economic visions amount to little more than the construction of golf-course subdivisions across the countryside. Where is the focus on attracting and nurturing innovative enterprises that create quality jobs?

A key consideration for growing companies is the ability to form partnerships with universities for research purposes. Another key is workforce development. Yet Scott is reducing the state's education commitment.

Scott is confident that cuts in the corporate tax rate will bolster the state's appeal. It's true, tax expenses are always a factor in corporate decisions. But Florida's taxes are already low. Further reductions are not going to change the relocation equation much for most businesses. (And those that care solely about having the lowest tax rates are unlikely to have much commitment to the state.)

The areas of corporate concern where Florida has the most room to improve — good schools, qualified workers and an appealing quality of life — are not Scott priorities.

Scott's rejection of $2.4 billion for a high-speed train from Tampa to Orlando that was projected to create more than 30,000 construction jobs also raised fears in business circles that decisions will be driven by a rigid political orthodoxy.

Scott ignored ridership studies and dismissed offers from federal and local officials that would ensure the state was not stuck with unexpected costs.

"It didn't look like there was any concern about the return on investment for the state," the site-selection consultant says. "That's heresy."

Recently, Scott, with approval ratings in the 20s, has shown a slight willingness to be more flexible.

He approved the SunRail project supported by central Florida officials, including influential lawmakers. He was unenthusiastic but did listen to the proponents who had invested heavily in the multi-county rail project; they believe it will strengthen the region's economy.

Scott also backed off a plan to develop a private RV park in little Honeymoon Island State Park after it ignited fierce public opposition.

Until now, the governor, who insists he does not regret a single decision he has made as governor, has acted as if his election entitled him to rule Florida without regard for opposing views, the state's history or the long-term consequences.

He would find that more public discussion, careful deliberation and respect for viewpoints outside his office would boost his political fortunes, and most likely improve the state's economic prospects as well.

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