Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday October 16th 2018


Keys to Continued Growth

By Rick Outzen

On June 28, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Cissy Proctor, touted the economic development successes of Governor Rick Scott and the region. She was the keynote speaker at the annual economic summit held by the local commercial real estate development association, NAIOP Northwest Florida.

Proctor said the state’s historic low unemployment rate, 4.3 percent, is an “incredible economic indicator showing how strong our economy is.”  And while Florida’s unemployment rate continues to fall, its labor force continues to grow.

“The job growth in Florida is nearly five times that of the nation, which shows that Floridians are confident—current Floridians, current residents, as well as future—because we have about 1,000 people moving to our state every day,” she said.  “They’re all confident in their ability to find a job here in Florida.”

The DEO executive director said the business community has demonstrated its confidence in the state’s economy by continuing to grow and create jobs.

“The labor force in our state continues to have confidence in their ability to fill those jobs,” said Proctor. “In fact, in May, there were around 255,000 job openings across the state. These indicators are really important for our state as a whole but also are important for the strength of your local community.”

She pointed out that Escambia County added last year more than 3,000 new jobs. Area businesses currently have about 55,000 openings right now, including about 1,200 that are in the high skills STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) occupations.

Proctor said, “The growth here, we know, is because of the investments our governor and our legislature have made in bringing diverse companies to our state, to supporting existing businesses that are here in our state, and also marketing our state as the tourist destination.”

The continued growth of Florida’s and Escambia County’s economies are tied to continued funding for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida to market Pensacola and Florida to tourists and businesses, according to Proctor.

She touted the new Florida Job Growth Fund, a $85-million fund that will be used by Gov. Scott to improve public infrastructure and workforce training to “make Florida even a better place to do business, to start a business, or to grow a business. ”

Four Factors
Proctor said the Florida DEO has identified four factors necessary to ensure that Florida continues to lead the way—a competitive business environment, workforce development,  infrastructure, and a strong economic development portfolio.

On the importance of having a competitive business environment, she said, “Our state is outpacing other large states in many areas because we have an administration that understands that we have to let local governments take the lead. Low tax environment fosters a competitive business environment. Reducing taxes allows businesses to reinvest in their community, which allows us to keep the cost of business low so we can attract more growth.”

She called Navy Federal Credit Union “our shining star” for business incentives and having the proper competitive business environment.

“We love to go visit that company and see what they’re doing,” Proctor said. “In 2014, the governor announced the Navy Federal Credit Union would create thousands of new jobs and invest hundreds of million dollars right here in Pensacola. Navy Federal is now on their way to creating 10,000 jobs right here, and the company predicts that more than $1 billion in capital investment will be made right here by 2020.”

On workforce development, she said that a well-trained workforce is critical to expanding business opportunities.  At DEO, the Workforce Service Division manages statewide workforce readiness programs, training, and reemployment assistance.

“Expanding job markets and the availability of skills-based training helped Florida workers achieve financial stability for themselves and their families,” she said. “High school and college graduation rates are continuing to climb, and investments in our workforce continue to connect job seekers to those 255,000 openings that we currently have across the state.”

In addition to a competitive business environment and workforce investment, the third critical factor to business growth is Florida’s infrastructure.

“At our agency, we work closely with the Florida Department of Transportation and other critical partners to drive infrastructure investment and meet the needs all across our state,” Proctor said.

She said that Gov. Scott has invested billions into Florida’s 15 seaports to develop them into “truly economic powerhouses.” The investments have seen a return of nearly seven dollars in state and local tax revenue to every one dollar that’s been invested.

“Our ports are responsible for 900,000 jobs and more than $117 billion dollars in economic value,” Proctor said. “From your Port of Pensacola to the Port of Key West, Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf ports are critical to our state’s economic diversification, increased trade, and new job opportunities for Floridians.”

Proctor also talked about the impact of the construction of the new Pensacola Bay Bridge that will bring almost a $400 million state investment to this area. She said, “This critical infrastructure will hopefully help meet the needs of the community for years and decades to come.”

The fourth factor for continued job growth is having a strong economic development portfolio that gives private sector businesses the tools to succeed.

“Our economic development portfolio includes working with every community, large and small, to help map their assets, tap into their talent pipeline, and evaluate their needs,” she said. “We offer a range of great programs and also work with the federal government and local communities on block grants, technical assistance, and more.”

Proctor believes that Florida is flourishing because of the policies that the Scott administration and the state legislature have championed, such as cutting taxes more than 50 times, reducing bureaucracy, eliminating more than 4,000 regulations, creating a competitive business environment, making record investments in education, and keeping college degrees affordable.

She said, “These key investments have set the stage for growth and prosperity that we all want to see for our local communities all across the state.”