It wouldn’t be politics without a little bickering, so it’s probably a good thing Florida Governor Rick Scott addressed Enterprise Florida’s Board Thursday. While the Legislature is coming to terms over the state’s congressional map, Scott is complaining about lack of funding for the economic development agency.
State lawmakers established Enterprise Florida in the early nineties as a way to lure new companies to the state. The public-private partnership is Governor Rick Scott’s main tool for achieving his overriding goal for the state: create new jobs. But he says the organization is in trouble.
“We’ve got to tell the Legislature that, one, this is important to our kids, this is important to our grandkids, this is important to make sure that our livelihood stays there,” Scott says. “We’ve got to diversify this economy. We’ve got to get these corporate offices. We’ve got to get advanced manufacturing.”
In his initial budget proposal, Scott asked for more than $80 million for the agency. But lawmakers balked. A budget fight spurred by declining federal health funding took center stage. Some lawmakers criticized the large appropriation in light of the organization’s inability to spend previous allocations. As budget negotiations were drawing to a close, House and Senate leadership were considering between $25 and $30 million for the state’s Economic Development Toolkit. But one frantic Enterprise Florida press conference later, that figure jumped by more than $10 million.
Scott says it’s still not enough.
“We have a shot at getting companies like GE,” Scott says. “But we can’t get companies like GE if we don’t have any money.”
“Now we’re competing, and we’re beating Texas now,” he went on, “but let’s look at where we were. We had what, $45 million [in] Enterprise Florida funding? Texas has $130 million. One project—the Toyota project—to move out of California, cost $40 million.”
But for all the distress, Enterprise Florida isn’t broke yet. After a flurry of incentive deals in July and August, Scott says the agency has about $9 million. And the dire state of its balance sheet hasn’t stopped more than three quarters of a million going toward bonuses for Enterprise Florida’s employees.