ECONOMIC WAR Gov. Rick Scott visited Pensacola on Monday, July 25 and spoke at The Fish House to the board of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, area elected officials and other supporters in the business community. His message was direct.
“We will win this economic war we’re in.”
Scott announced a projected $1.2 billion surplus for the current fiscal year that started July 1. He said that Florida is second only to Texas in job growth. He was proud of the reduction of regulations and the elimination of the business tax.
“Everybody knows that they are competing with Florida,” said Scott. “We are going to compete. We have every reason to win.”
The governor talked about his efforts to recruit businesses to move to Florida and his conversations with Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and other governors. Scott said, “States that do the right thing will lead.”
Scott sees his role as salesman. His product is the state of Florida. When he talks to corporations, Scott asks them what fee, tax or regulation does the state have that doesn’t make sense. “Businesses are frustrated by regulations and frivolous litigation. They can go somewhere else,” he said.
Scott appealed to the leaders at The Fish House to build on the relationships that they have with businesses outside the state. “I want any ideas you have,” said the governor. “I have no problems making cold calls.”
The governor talked about his trade mission. He recently went to Canada to attract corporations and has another trade mission planned for Brazil. “Every 60 to 90 days, we are going on the road with the best economic development leaders in the state and selling the state of Florida,” said Scott.
Listening to the governor reminded me of Mayor Ashton Hayward’s efforts to attract businesses to Pensacola. The Hubs/Sea World marine institute and fish hatchery concept is due to Hayward taking the initiative and flying to San Diego to meet with their management team.
Gov. Scott talked Monday about making the state more business friendly. The City of Pensacola hasn’t always been that way. One economic development expert recently shared with me that Pensacola has had a reputation for being difficult to deal with.
The vacant Downtown Technology Park is testimony to that statement. When it was first proposed five years ago, two of the top tech companies in the state, AppRiver and Avalex Technologies, were all set to be the first tenants. The hope was that they would attract others. City staff ran them off. AppRiver chose to expand at its location in the city of Gulf Breeze. Avalex bought the old World Ford location in south Santa Rosa County.
There has been an arrogance in how city staff deals with businesses, both existing and new. Like Scott, Hayward is trying to change that. We are in an economic war with other cities, counties, states and even countries.
And I agree with Gov. Scott, “If we lose, it’s our fault.”